Today’s section begins with a derashah on a verse that sounds similar to the verse expounded in daf 18
Psalms 112 says “happy is the man who fears the Lord” and the Talmud quite interestingly asks why a woman who fears the Lord should not similarly be happy. As a response to this difficulty, two amoraim offer different interpretations. The first is that one is happy if he repents while his inclination to sin is still strong—while he is still a man, and not only once he is old and his inclination has weakened. The second interpretation is somewhat similar—happy is the one who conquers his evil inclination like “a man.” Clearly, these are still very gendered images.
Elazar reads into the verse that to be happy one should serve God without the hope of any external reward. This same message is found in a mishnah from Avot.
One can learn Torah, gain wisdom, only if one is in the place that one wants to be. I think this is one of the deepest sayings concerning Torah that I know. And it is true about most things in life—one can learn and grow only if one is happy and satisfied with where one is.
This is a fascinating story on many levels. First of all, it provides a glimpse into how the sages studied Bible, at least on occasion. It seems that they finished one book before opening another. Moreover, they studied from physical books and not memory. Second, we can see the power relationship between Levi and Rabbi’s family. Levi seems to be forced to sit there, until he can justify leaving. Third, it is an ironic statement coming after Rabbi’s beautiful derashah. Rabbi, perhaps unwittingly, but perhaps not, has created a situation where one of the top sages in his own Bet Midrash no longer wants to learn Torah there.
This section continues to expound on the end of the verse from yesterday’s section (Psalms 112:1).
These are two slightly different takes on the meaning of this verse. Rava’s derashah is the same that we saw above where it was attributed to Rabbi Judah Hanasi. But R. Avdimi breaks up the words differently—he who studies the Torah, will have his desires granted.
Rava reads the pronoun at the end of the verse as referring to the one who studies the Torah, not God (as it surely means according to its simple meaning). Thus, once one begins to study Torah intensely, it becomes his, and it is called by his name.
Study here probably means something akin to “learning” or even “memorizing.” First a person should memorize or at least learn the simple readings of the verses. Once he has attained that level of learning, he should delve deeper and meditate upon its meaning.
“Recites” in rabbinic lingo refers to rote recitation of rabbinic dicta. “Grinds” refers to understanding them, and refining them to make sure they are correct. Rava exhibits his preference for the former, at least in terms of educational priority.
Rava refers to a seeming contradiction between Proverbs 9:3 and 9:14. Where does one who studies wisdom/Torah dwell? On the highest places or on a seat? He resolves this by detecting a progress in a student’s learning. When he begins he is in the highest places, perhaps out of excitement for beginning to learn. But when he proceeds, he moves down to a seat, a position of honor, where others will be able to learn from his Torah.
Again, Rava notes a progression in the position of a student of Torah.
Ulla learns another educational message from Proverbs. First drink from your cistern, where waters are gathered from elsewhere. Then, once your learning has progressed, running waters of new Torah will emerge from your well.
Most of the sayings in this sugya take verses from Proverbs and apply to them to the study of Torah, which was of course a major occupation of the rabbis.
This section advocates learning a little bit of Torah/wisdom at a time—not in great big heaps all at the same time.
Shizbi interprets a difficult word as a “notrikon”—“yach-roch” is divided into two words—“yichyeh” and “ya’arich.” One who acquires his learning deceitfully will not live long.
Sheshet interprets it more in line of the simple reading. A deceptive hunter will have more success in killing his prey.
Dimi goes back to interpreting it as a metaphor for learning. One who learns and then “breaks the wings” of his learning will retain his learning, like a bird whose wings are broken. But if one does not make sure that his learning stays with him, then all his learning is for naught.
When it comes to logic, it is better to learn from multiple teachers. This would seem to ensure that one’s logical deductions are correct. However, when it comes to memorizing oral traditions, learning from multiple teachers is problematic for different teachers phrase their teaching in different languages. This could create confusion.