Tuesday, February 08, 2011


In the footnotes to the Chofetz Chaim al haTorah on last week's parsha it records that the C"C asked R' Yisroel Salanter whether it was better to learn one topic b'iyun or to cover ground. R'YS answered with a mashal: learning only one topic in depth to the exclusion of all else is like buying a beautiful tie but not having any other clothes. Moral of the story: stock up on bekiyus. (The note adds that psak halacha, however, requires specialized in depth knowledge. RY"S himself had the idea of talmidei chachamim specializing in specific areas so as to best be able to pasken in those domains.)


  1. Anonymous2:17 PM

    but, by analogy to "optional" tefillah, where better is a little with kavannah,then much without(o.c. 1.4)-- is shas not
    "discretionary" learning, relative
    to say, the study of halachah?

  2. How can you learn halacha properly without knowing gemara?

  3. Rb Yisroel Salanter (Ohr Yisroel) explains that there are two types of learning:

    1 - mishpatis; learning in order to know practical halacha. To keep a mitzva, you need to know its halachos, so this is learning which the mitzvah itself obliges you to do.
    2 - chukis; learning as an end within itself. e.g. learning hilchos parah adumah

    He says that there is a different segulah in each of these two types of learning.
    1. Learning the halachah has a segulah tivis: Through learning halacha you will enhance your observance of that mitzva
    2. Learning for the sake of learning has a segulah ruchnis and will enhance all your mitzva observance.

    For example he says that if you learn shor shenogach es haparah this will prevent you from talking loshon hara, but you can only know what is and isn't loshon hara if you learn its halachos.

  4. AS with everything, I think there needs to be the right balance of iyun/bekiyus. Just as it is not ideal to learn just one topic beiyun it is equally undesireable to steam-roll through shas without really understanding what you are learning. There has recently been a lot of poublicity in England (and maybye elsewhere as well)for Rabbi Pogrow's masterdaf learning program where he suggests that everyone should follow his method of "kinyan torah" and know the whole of shas. In reality, it is incorrect to tell eveyone to stop their normal seder limmud and disregard iyun all together because rattling off shas shakla vetarya is not necessarily the "right" way of learning. Each person should learn to the depth and bredth that he enjoys and feels comfortable with.