What Torah Should One Learn Daily?

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Importance

  1. Chazal tell us that "regardless, if one brings a large Korban or a small one as long as one's intentions are for heaven (one's korban is accepted)." [1] The same idea applies to Torah study. [2]
  2. If one likes to learn and understands it, one can refrain from extending Tefillah and only say the portions that are obligatory. [3]

Tanach, Mishna, and Talmud

  1. One should apportion one's time to study torah everyday into three, one portion for Tanach and some say it's commentaries, one portion for Mishna and Gemara, and one portion to analyze the primary ways the Torah is learnt so that one will know that which is forbidden and that which is permitted. After one grows in Torah one should review Tanach, Mishna, and Gemara, but focus on analyzing Torah. Some say that by learning Talmud Bavli one fulfills learning each area of Torah because the Bavli includes everything, nonetheless, certainly one must still know Tanach and Mishna. Some say that one should devote more time to Mishna than to Tanach and more time to Gemara than to Mishna each one according to its difficulty. [4]
  2. Many authorities emphasize that it's absolutely crucial to learn Halacha so that one knows what one must do as well as mussar which subjugates the Yetzer Hara. Some say that these are included in the above three categories. [5] See further in the next section regarding Halacha and Mussar.
  3. Some have the righteous practice of learning Chok LeYisrael which is a daily learning regiment set up by the Arizal that includes pesukim from Torah, Nevuim, Ketuvim, Mishnayot, Gemara, Zohar, Halacha, and Mussar. [6]

Halacha and Mussar

  1. It's very important to learn Mussar daily because the greater one is, the greater one's Yetzer hara is. [7] Torah was created as an antidote to the Yetzer Hara. [8] Even if learning Mussar takes away from learning other portions of Torah like Gemara, it's important to study Mussar. [9]
  2. It is important to learn Halacha daily. One who learns 2 halacha's each day merits life in the Olam Haba.[10]
  3. Someone who only has 2 or 3 hours to learn daily should learn Halacha from Shulchan Aruch and commentaries or from contemporary Poskim so that one will be knowledgeable in practical laws and not come to do a sin without knowing. This is more preferable than learning Daf Yomi, or Gemara and Rishonim from which one can’t derive practical halacha. [11]

Learning Kabbalah

  1. It’s forbidden for someone to learn Kabbalah unless has learned seriously all of Gemara and Poskim, and is a Talmud Chacham ingrained with Yirat Shamayim. One should protest if someone is teaching Kabbalah to the public especially if the teacher himself isn’t fitting to learn it. [12]

Learning at day and night

  1. One should establish a fixed time to learn after davening. One should make certain that that time is fixed and one doesn't miss it even if one thinks one can make a lot of money by missing it. If one has a great need that one needs to leave for, one should learn at least one pasuk or one halacha. After finishing whatever was pressing one should complete one's daily standard amount. [13]
  2. It’s important to learn at night and not waste it all with sleep, eating, and talking because one accomplishes most of his learning at night [14], that learning is not easily forgotten and is considered like the Avoda of the Korbanot. The joy of Torah is specifically felt for learning at night and Hashem grants a special Chesed for one who learns at night. [15].
  3. There's a special practice to "join the day and night" with learning or davening by learning during sunset and sunrise. [16]
  4. If one has a certain daily schedule of learning and hasn't completed it yet, one should finish it at night. However, preferably one should make a stipulation not to accept the daily schedule as a neder, but rather bli neder in case one misses a day. [17]

Learning Tanach at night

  1. According to the Kabbalah, it's preferable not to learn Tanach at night. [18] However, some argue that one may be lenient. [19] However, since it's not forbidden but only preferable, if not learning Tanach will cause Bitul Torah (Chas VeShalom) one may learn Tanach. [20]
  2. It is permissible to read Tehilim at night if read as a prayer for the sick or for another cause. [21]
  3. It is permissible to read Tanach on Friday night or the night of Yom Tov. [22]
  4. It is permissible to learn Tanach along with Rashi at night. [23]

Sources

  1. Menachot 110a
  2. Mishna Brurah 1:12 writes that this principle also applies to Torah learning. Halacha Brurah 1:11 concurs and writes that such is evident from Brachot 5b.
  3. Eliyah Rabba 1:1, Lechem Chamudot (Brachot HaRoeh 84), Birkei Yosef 1:9, Mishna Brurah 1:12, Halacha Brurah 1:11, Kaf HaChaim 1:31.
  4. See next footnote
    • In Gemara Kiddushin 30a, Rav Safra interprets the word “ושננתם” as ושלשתם which means that one should split one’s time in three in study Torah, one third to study Mikrah, one third to study Mishna, and one third to study Talmud. The Gemara says that since one doesn’t know how long one will live, one should split up one’s days in three ways. Rashi s.v. LeYomi explains that one should split up the days of the week into these three parts. However, Tosfot s.v. Lo argues that it means that one should split up every single day into these three sections. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:12) and S”A 246:4 agree with Tosfot.
    • Tosfot also quotes the Rabbenu Tam who says that we rely on only learning Talmud Bavli which itself is a combination of Mikrah, Mishna, and Gemara.
    • Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:11) writes that Mikrah means Torah SheBaal Peh, Mishna means Torah SheBichtav, and Gemara means comparing, analyzing, thinking, and understanding the primary ways the Torah is learnt so that one will know that which is forbidden and that which is permitted. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:12) continues to say that this only applies in the beginning of one’s learning, however, after one has acquired wisdom one should review Torah SheBaal Peh at certain times but primarily one will spend one’s time on Gemara as he defined above. Kesef Mishna (Talmud Torah 1:12) writes that the Rambam's reason is obvious because study of Talmud is the most time consuming and this is the basis for the minhag not to apportion one's time in three parts.
    • S”A 246:4 rules like the Rambam and the Rama rules like the Rabbenu Tam. Aruch HaShulchan YD 246:14 writes that the halacha and minhag follow the Rabbenu Tam, however, certainly one must still know Mikrah and Mishna.
    • The Ran (Avoda Zara 5b s.v. Ki) writes that certainly Talmud requires more time than Mishna and Mishna more than Mikrah rather the Gemara just means that one should apportion each area of Torah it’s proper time. Biur HaGra YD 246:15 quotes this Ran. S”A HaRav (Talmud Torah 2:2) writes that it’s good to abide by this opinion.
    • S”A YD 246:4 writes that Mikrah means the 24 books of Torah. Aruch HaShulchan 246:13 explains that Mikrah includes the 24 books of Tanach and also their explanations. However, the S”A HaRav (Talmud Torah 2:1) writes that the explanations of Tanach is considered Mishna which is all an explanation of the 613 מצות.
    • The Shach 246:5 quotes the דרישה who writes that some people only learn Gemara, Rashi, and Tosfot and they don’t fulfill the statement of the Gemara Niddah 73a which says that a person should learn Halachot every day meaning Halacha Pesukot (Halachic rulings of the poskim). He adds that the Rabbenu Tam’s idea that Gemara Bavli includes everything only refers to those who can learn 9 hours a day but those who learn 3 or 4 hours shouldn’t just learn Gemara. Mishna Brurah (Introduction to Mishna Brurah, vol 1) quotes this and expands on it.
    • On the other hand, Birkei Yosef YD 246:4 laments the fact that many people only read the abridged halachot as they dispair from the difficult study of talmud because they are decreasing torah (against the principle of "VeYagdil Torah VeYadir") and causing the reasonings of halachot to be forgotten.
    • Kitzur S”A 27:3 writes that someone who can’t learn as his main focus but can at least set aside times to learn, at those times he should learn Halacha which every Jew needs to know and Mussar which subjugate the Yetzer Hara. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Talkut Torah 246:2) seems to say that Mussar is included in the category of Talmud.
    • S”A HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:1) explains that Mishna includes the Halacha Pesuka of the Mishnayot and Britot which explain the details of the 613 מצות and nowadays Mishna includes the Halacha Pesuka of the Shulchan Aruch and Rama. S”A HaRav adds that Talmud means understanding the reasons of the halachot in the משניות and Britot and nowadays that means the Rosh and Bet Yosef who explain the reasons of the halachot.
  5. The source for such a schedule is the Arizal (Shaar Mitzvot VaEtchanan). Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:3 writes that it's praiseworthy to learn the Chok LeYisrael daily. Further on the topic, see the Machzik Bracha 156:6, Sh”t Shalmat Chaim Zonenfeld Y”D 89, Kaf HaChaim 132:6, 155:3, and Sh”t Yabia Omer (Y”D 4:31(5), O”C 9:108(79)). Rav Chaim Zonenfeld in Salmat Chaim 46-49 writes that since the traditions of the Arizal weren't given over to the other rishonim we don't have to follow them. It is similar to Rabbi Eliezer who had traditions that other tenayim didn't have but we still don't follow them. Specially he says that you don't have to learn Chok Lyisrael every day if you learn anyways.
  6. Sukkah 52a
  7. Kedushin 30b
  8. Birkei Yosef 1:9 and Chaye Adam (Yom Kippur Klal 432) write that one should study Mussar daily even at the expense of torah study time. Mishna Brurah 1:12 (and Shaar Tzion 1:26), Halacha Brurah (1:11 and 55:4), and Halichot Olam (8 pg 336) quote this as halacha.
  9. Niddah 73a, Yalkut Yosef 155:4. [See Yesod Yosef (ch. 46 n. 3) about the significance of learning halacha daily and how it is mystically connected to beautifying Torah like a bride. See Pachad Yitzchak Shabbat (Siman 7).]
  10. Derisha Y”D 246:6, Shach Y”D 246:5 write that someone who only has a little time should learn from the poskim as it says in Nidda 73a someone who learns Halachot every day is a Ben Olam Haba. Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Tamud Torah 2:9), Yarot Devash, Derech HaChaim, Sh”t Teshuva MeAhava (Introduction to 2nd volume), Sh”t Yachave Daat 6:52, Kaf HaChaim Palagi 29:9, Mishna Brurah 155:3, and Halacha Brurah 155:4 concur.
  11. Zohar (Pekudei 247b) describes the importance of learning the secrets of Torah and it’s reward. However the poskim write that one needs to have first learned Gemara and Poskim including Etz Chaim (pg 1d), Rama Y”D 246:4, Maharsha (Chagiga 13a), Shelah (Eser Maamarot 29b) and Sh”t Yachave Daat 4:47. Interestingly, S”A HaRav (Talmud Torah 2:1) writes that Kabbalah is included in the section of Talmud (one of the three sections a person should learn daily, see above).
  12. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 27:1
  13. Rambam (Talmud Torah 3:13). Shulchan Aruch 238:1 rules this with the language one must be very careful to learn torah at night, more careful than the day!
  14. Avoda Zara 3b. The gemara in Eruvin 65a says that night was created specifically for Torah study. The gemara in Chagigah 12b says that one who studies Torah at night will enjoy Hashem’s grace by day, as the pasuk in Psalms 42:9 says “By day, G-d will direct His grace, and at night, His song is with me.”
  15. Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 1:6), Bear Hetiev 238:1, and Mishna Brurah 1:2 in of the Shlah HaKadosh in fulfillment of the pasuk in Yehoshua 1:8 "you shall meditate on it day and night."
  16. Shulchan Aruch 238:2, Mishna Brurah 238:5, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 71:1
  17. Birkei Yosef 1:13, 238:2 in name of the Arizal, Ben Ish Chai Pekudei #7, Kaf HaChaim 237:9.
  18. Shaar HaTziyun 238:1 in name of the Pri Megadim.
  19. Piskei Teshuvot 238:1
  20. Sh"t Tzitiz Eliezer 8:2
  21. Piskei Teshuvot 238:1, Sh"t Yabia Omer 6:30, Sh"t Maharashdam 1:158
  22. Sh"t Veyeche Yacov O"C 9, Piskei Teshuvot 238:1