Rabbi Ami said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “If the iron is blunt, and does not whet the edge” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)? If you see a sky that is blunt as iron, in that it does not bring down dew and rain, this is due to the deeds of the generation, which are corrupt, as it is stated: “And does not whet [kilkal] the edge [panim].” Panim, which also means face, is often used in reference to the leaders of a generation, while the term kilkal is similar to the word for corrupt, mekulkalin. What is their remedy? They must increase their prayers for mercy, as it is stated in the same verse: “Then must he increase his strength, but wisdom is profitable to direct” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). This verse hints that rain will fall if one increases his strength, i.e., his prayers for mercy. The last part of the verse means that, all the more so, if their deeds had been righteous and direct from the beginning, the rains would not have been withheld.
The Gemara cites a different interpretation of the same verse. Reish Lakish said: If you see a student whose studies are hard as iron for him, i.e., difficult to understand, this is due to his lack of familiarity with the Mishna, which is not organized for him. If the Mishna is unclear, any further study of Gemara is rendered all the more difficult, as it is stated: “And does not whet [kilkal] the edge [panim]” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). As panim can also mean surface, this indicates that the surface, i.e., the basic statements of the Mishna, is corrupted. As stated previously, kilkal can also mean corrupted. What is his remedy? He must increase the time he sits and studies, as it is stated: “Then must he increase his strength” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). The last part of the verse: “But wisdom is profitable to direct,” means that all the more so, if his study of the Mishna is organized for him from the beginning, he will avoid this trouble. That is like this practice of Reish Lakish, who would review his studies forty times, corresponding to the forty days in which the Torah was given to Moses at Sinai, and only afterward would he go before Rabbi Yoḥanan to study from his teacher. Similarly, Rav Adda bar Ahava would review his learning twenty-four times, corresponding to the twenty-four books in the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, i.e., the Bible, and only afterward go before Rava to study with him.