- Question: [Tuesday, 19th Kisleiv, 5783]
I tried to keep up with the Daf Yomi and daily Rambam, but often due to time constraints and due to simple lacking of Talmudic skills it can happen that I don’t understand anything that I read on the Daf or Rambam, or understand it to a very minimal level. This also happens sometimes during my daily Chassidus learning session, that there are often sections of learning which are completely above my head and I have no clue what I am reading. My question is regarding if there is any value to this learning, and it is consider that I fulfill the mitzvah of Torah learning, or should I move onto subjects that I can properly understand on my level?
Based on the rulings of the Alter Rebbe, you are to continue with your studies and not be dissuaded over the fact that there are sections that you don’t understand, as it certainly still contains value. Aside from the fact that this is the way of Torah learning, that what is poor in one area is wealthy in another area [which can also be interpreted to mean that some sections you understand more in other sections you understand less], furthermore the Alter Rebbe rules in his Shulchan Aruch, as is also written in other sources, that you will receive future reward even for the study of those subjects that you could not comprehend, despite the fact that you technically do not fulfill the positive command of Talmud Torah if you did not understand the oral Torah, as brought below in the explanation.
Explanation: The positive command of Talmud Torah can only be fulfilled if one understands what he is learning, and if he does not understand the words that he is saying then it is not considered like learning at all. This, however, is with exception to the written Torah, Tanach, by which we rule that even if you don’t understand the words that you are saying you fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah. Furthermore, even by the oral Torah the Alter Rebbe rules based on the Talmud and Zohar and Midrash that one should involve himself in the study the entire oral Torah including the subjects that he cannot understand, as in the future he will understand and comprehend all of the Torah subjects that he studied in this world and was unable to understand due to his lack of comprehension. Furthermore, in Likkutei Torah the Alter Rebbewrites that the learning words of Torah even when you don’t understand them helps create vessels to draw down G-dliness into the world. Hence, it is clear that every individual is encouraged to study Torah in mass, even if there will be sections or many sections that he cannot understand.
Sources: See regarding that even one who does not understand the written Torah still fulfill his obligation of learning Torah: Admur Y.D. Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:12-13; O.C. 47:7; 48:8; 185:2-3; Michaber 135:4; M”A 135:5; 139:4; Pardes Rashi 27; Shelah Beis Neman 13a and Miseches Shavuos 191b; See regarding that one who does not understand the oral Torah does not fulfill his obligation of learning Torah: Admur O.C. 50:2; Y.D. Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:13 “By the oral Torah, if he does not understand the words that he is saying then it is not considered like learning at all”; Tanya Kuntrus Achron p. 154b “If he does not understand what he is learning then it is not considered a learning at all.”; Likkutei Torah Vayikra 5b and Shir Hashirim 28a; M”A 50:2; See regarding that even one who does not understand the oral Torah should continue learning it and that in the future Hashem will help him understand it: Admur Y.D. Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:13 “Nevertheless, one should involve himself in the study the entire oral Torah including the subjects that he cannot understand, as in the future he will understand and comprehend all of the Torah subjects that he studied in this world and was unable to understand due to his lack of comprehension.”; Likkutei Torah Parshas Metzorah “The sages state in the last chapter in Avoda Zara that a person should always study Torah even if he will forget it and even if he doesn’t know what he is saying, as the verse states Garsa Nafshi Letaava. The reason for this is because the main service is to make many vessels for the revelation and drawing down of godliness, and this is accomplished through the letters of Torah, through studying it and learning it.”; Toras Menachem 5744 Vayishlach; Likkutei Sichos 14:22; 18:438; Avoda Zara 19a; Zohar Vayeishev p. 185; Maavor Yabok Sifsei Renanos 26; Likkutei Maharich; Midrash Tehillim 147 “Pokeiach Ivrim, he who opens the eyes of the blind. Who are the blind in this case? They are these generations that go with Torah like blind people, however, in the future your God will open their eyes”