Why Do I Need to Learn?: The Essence of Limud Torah (mekorot)

How do you think learning Torah is different than learning math or english?

(א) אֵלּוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאֵין לָהֶם שִׁעוּר. הַפֵּאָה, וְהַבִּכּוּרִים, וְהָרֵאָיוֹן, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה. 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:

(1) These are the things that have no definite quantity: The corners [of the field]. First-fruits; [The offerings brought] on appearing [at the Temple on the three pilgrimage festivals]. The performance of righteous deeds; And the study of the torah. The following are the things for which a man enjoys the fruits in this world while the principal remains for him in the world to come: Honoring one’s father and mother; The performance of righteous deeds; And the making of peace between a person and his friend; And the study of the torah is equal to them all.

What makes learning Torah so unique in the hierarchy of mitzvot?

The Gra: a person has to try and hold the Torah so beloved to him because every word that he learns is another mitzvah. How do we know this? Because if one is studying Torah and a mitzvah comes up that someone else around can do, they should do it. (Every second of learning is another mitzvah)

When did Hashem command us to learn Torah?

(ח) לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁ סֵ֩פֶר֩ הַתּוֹרָ֨ה הַזֶּ֜ה מִפִּ֗יךָ וְהָגִ֤יתָ בּוֹ֙ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלַ֔יְלָה לְמַ֙עַן֙ תִּשְׁמֹ֣ר לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת כְּכׇל־הַכָּת֖וּב בּ֑וֹ כִּי־אָ֛ז תַּצְלִ֥יחַ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֖ךָ וְאָ֥ז תַּשְׂכִּֽיל׃
(8) Let not this Book of the Teaching cease from your lips, but recite it day and night, so that you may observe faithfully all that is written in it. Only then will you prosper in your undertakings and only then will you be successful.

What aspects of Torah study do you think affect us the most?

Rabeinu Chananya: The highest level of learning is limasya (practicality, knowing what to do)

Rashi: to understand the words of the Mishnah and how to put two contradictory sources together, learning to capture the ideas of the Torah (nothing about limaysa)

knowing what to do (limaysa) vs to understand (lishma)

The Rush: The essence of limud Torah is coming to the truth

(א) הנה תלמוד התורה הוא ענין מוכרח לפי שזולתו א״א להגיע אל המעשה כי אם לא ידע מה הוא מצווה שיעשה איך יעשהו. אמנם זולת כל זה יש בתלמוד תכלית גדול לשלימותו של האדם וכבר הזכרנו הענין בקצרה בח״א פ״ד אמנם עתה נאריך בו יותר:

(1) Behold that Torah study is a necessary matter. As without it, it is impossible to arrive at [proper] action. For if one does not know what he is commanded to do, how will he do it? However besides all this, there is a great function in study towards the perfection of man. And we already mentioned the matter briefly in Part I, Chapter 4 (On Human Responsibility 9). But now we will write about it at greater length.

We have established that the Torah acts as a guide in how to do mitzvot, but there is a second element.

Hashem is an infinite Being who created a finite world and the only beings that have free will are us. How is there a connection between the infinite and the finite? The answer: Hashem created a mechanism that is on one side finite (words, concepts, physical object), but inside of it Hashem put His infinite in, ie, the Torah which is why through learning Torah we connect to Hashem like no other mitzvah. When we connect to Torah we connect to the infinite (according to the Ramchal in Derech Hashem).

What if I struggle to understand what I'm learning?

(ה) צָרִיךְ לִזָּהֵר, בְּכָל מַה שֶּׁהוּא לוֹמֵד, לְהוֹצִיאוֹ בִּשְׂפָתָיו וּלְהַשְׁמִיעַ לְאָזְנָיו. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר לֹא יָמוּשׁ סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֶּה מִפִּיךָ, וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ וְגוֹ'. וּמִי שֶׁמּוֹצִיא בִּשְׂפָתָיו, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ מֵבִין, קִיֵּם מִצְוַת וּלִמַּדְתֶּם וְלָכֵן כָּל עַם הָאָרֶץ מְבָרֵךְ בִּרְכַּת הַתּוֹרָה בַּשַּׁחַר, לִפְנֵי הַפְּסוּקִים, וְכֵן כְּשֶׁעוֹלֶה לְסֵפֶר תּוֹרָה. וְכָל הָעוֹסֵק בַּתּוֹרָה, וְאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לְהָבִין, מֵחֲמַת קֹצֶר דַּעְתּוֹ, יִזְכֶּה לְהָבִינָהּ בָּעוֹלָם הַבָּא. (רז"ש הל' ת"ת)

(5) A person should be careful in whatever he studies, to pronounce the words with his lips and to make it audible to his ears, for it is written, "This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth and you shall meditate on it…" And a person who pronounces the words even though he does not understand [their meaning], fulfills the mitzvah of "And you shall study them." Therefore, every unlearned person should say the berachah over Torah every morning before reciting the verses [Yevarechecha etc.], and also when he is called up to the Seifer Torah. Anyone who engages in Torah study but is unable to understand it for lack of knowledge, will merit to understand it in the World to Come.

According to the Kitzur Shulchan Orech, studying Torah, even without comprehension is a worthwhile task. Although one may not properly understand their studies in this world, they will be understood in next. For this reason, even one who is unable to understand everything should still study Torah.

Are we just meant to only learn Torah?

"Learning Torah isn't just information, but transformation" - Rabbi Bernstein

Have you ever learned anything that stuck with you? What was it and how did it change your perspective on life?