Chicken or Egg, Study or Action?

אֵלּוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאָדָם אוֹכֵל פֵּרוֹתֵיהֶן בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְהַקֶּרֶן קַיֶּמֶת לוֹ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. כִּבּוּד אָב וָאֵם, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וַהֲבָאַת שָׁלוֹם בֵּין אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כֻּלָּם:

These are the things for which a person reaps the fruits in this world, and gets a reward in the world to come: honoring one's father and mother, acts of lovingkindness, and bringing peace between people. And the study of Torah is equal to them all. [AJWS translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What do these actions have in common? How is the study of Torah equal to them all?

2. Do we as Jews prioritize actions over the study of Torah, study of Torah over actions, or view them as equal? How does our answer to this impact what we do in BBYO?

אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי יהודה ברבי אלעאי בא וראה שלא כדורות הראשונים דורות האחרונים דורות הראשונים עשו תורתן קבע ומלאכתן עראי זו וזו נתקיימה בידן דורות האחרונים שעשו מלאכתן קבע ותורתן עראי זו וזו לא נתקיימה בידן.

Rabbah b. bar Hana said in the name of Rabbi Johanan, reporting Rabbi Judah b. Ila’i: See what a difference there is between the earlier and the later generations. The earlier generations made the study of the Torah their main concern and their ordinary work subsidiary to it, and both prospered in their hands. The later generations made their ordinary work their main concern and their study of the Torah subsidiary, and neither prospered in their hands. [Translation by CAJE]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. Do you agree with the premise that ordinary work prospers when study is the primary concern and that neither prosper if ordinary work is the primary concern? What are some examples to support your answer?

2. Which do we in BBYO view as our primary concern? How does your answer to this impact how you think we ought to do?

וכבר היה רבי טרפון וזקנים מסובין בעלית בית נתזה בלוד נשאלה שאילה זו בפניהם תלמוד גדול או מעשה גדול נענה רבי טרפון ואמר מעשה גדול נענה ר"ע ואמר תלמוד גדול נענו כולם ואמרו תלמוד גדול שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה.

Rabbi Tarfon and some elders were reclining in an upper chamber in the house of Nitza in Lod when this question came up: Which is greater, study or action? Rabbi Tarfon spoke up and said: Action is greater. Rabbi Akiva spoke up and said: Study is greater. The others then spoke up and said: Study is greater because it leads to action. [Soncino translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What are times that Tarfon might be right and times that Akiva might be right?

2. Are you a Tarfonite or an Akivaite? Why? What about BBYO? How does this impact how we operate as regions or chapters?