Thursday, May 11, 2006


As per DovBear's request here, I am to "choose something from the list and write a post about it."

I pick 29: That which is hateful to you do not do to others. That is the whole Torah.

Generally when I tell people that Lovin' Thy Neighbor is the absolute most important mitzvah in the Torah, they slam back to me "What about Talmud Torah Kineged Kulam?" That is to say, that since the study of Torah includes all of the mitzvos, it overrides any individual mitzvah.

That line is taken from Tractate Shabbos page 127 side a and b.
There was a discussion regarding how much of a storehouse you can clear out on shabbos which led to a chat about guests. From the talk of hosting guests it led into the opinion of Rav Yehuda on what we get reward for in this world and the next:

Rav Yehuda
1)Hosting Guests
2)Bikur Cholim
3)Concentration in Prayer
4)Early going to the Beis
5)Raising kids in the ways of Torah
6)Judging people favorably

1)Honoring parents
3)Making peace between people
4)Learning Torah is equivalent to all of them

The mishnas inference is that Rav Yehuda is wrong and there are only four and those are the ones from the Mishna.
The gemorah clears this problem by saying:
1)Hosting Guests, Bikur Cholim and Concentration in prayer EQUAL Chesed
2)Early to Beis and Raising kids in the ways of torah EQUAL Talmud Torah
3)Judging favorably EQUAL Peace between people
So the 6 from Rav Yehuda is equivalent to 3 of the 4 from the mishna and Rav Yehuda was giving examples.

The gemorah then continues with a conversation about Judging people correctly.

So here is my take on all this. If talmud torah was meant to mean Kineged Kulam as literally as most translate it, then it is impossible for the gemorah to limit it to Early to Beis/Raising Kids. So the Mishna can't be translated as literally.

If Rav Yehuda cited examples for Talmud Torah, the kineged kulam can't mean what it does.

Perhaps it means that there are many facets to Judaism, and by learning the main code- you can do them better. Just by knowing them makes you a better person even if you don't act upon them: ie: knowing for the sake of knowing- l`shma. I DON'T think this means that learning torah 24/7 should override other parts of Judaism. I find other points of the religion to be more important. It is possible that the "learning torah method" will supply you with the greatest tools for self improvement quickest- but it would require zero contact with the outside world. And, if someone is learning torah just to gain the most reward in the littlest amount of time, it is possible they are missing the boat completely.

If people are learning torah 24/7 to really improve themselves and work on themselves as human beings for the better of themselves and the people they interact with- more power to them.

Other points I want to note:
1)The "fight" leading up to the above was about how important it is to make room for guests.
2)The next sugya is about the importance of judging people favorably.
The sugya which contains the passing line of "Talmud Torah Kineged Kulam" is encapsulated in discussions of V`ahvta L`reacha Kamocha!

I just don't sit easy with the claim the Talmud Torah is more important then doing Mitzvohs (as the statement implies). There are mitzvos you do that require the stopping of learning. According to the statement above, if translated as everyone loves to, it would seem the learning torah should override shabbos, kiddush, candles, going to shul, prayer, tzidaka, etc.
There is also a discussion in Tractate Kidushin page 39 side 2 which brings up the above line because of its apparent contradiction to the line: "one who does a single mitzvah, God bestows good on him and lengthens his days and he will inherit the land." The discussion there deals with the weight of mitzvos in general but it does lead into a discussion of:

"Which is worth more? Learning Torah or Doing Mitzvos?"
R Tarfon: Great Taste
R Akina: Less Filling
wait no
R Tarfon: Mitzvos is better
R Akiva: Learning is better
Rabanan: Learning is better cause then you'll do the mitzvos.
So what this tells me as that the purpose of learning Torah is so that I will know how to properly conduct myself regarding Lovin` Thy Neighbor. But overall, Lovin` Thy Neighbor is more important then all.

Lets get Lovin`

side note: learning torah takes many many forms and gemora isn't the only medium.

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