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48 Ways to Acquire the Torah: Way #13

Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #13, “Deliberation”

Deliberation — a settled mind. A settled soul. A settled life. All are required to acquire the Torah. The thing is, the study of Torah has this effect. It settles the mind, settles the soul, settles one’s life.

When the fear of death overcame Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918), he would fetch from the bookshelf Maimonides’ rulings on ritual impurity attendant upon a corpse (tum’at met). Torah study stilled his fear of death and settled his life.

Deliberation is necessary to acquire the Torah because the laws and the narratives of the Torah are typically complex, not given to an attention span nurtured by flashing images on an electronic screen.

In the Kelm Musar school, founded by Rabbi Simcha Zisl Ziv (1824-1898), he instituted a formal, five-minute study session. His idea was to train students to focus instantly. If the wisdom of the Torah is infinite, there is no time to waste when one has time to study it. To be deliberate, one must train oneself.

Another master of Musar, Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein (1880-1941), would say, “It takes five hours of thinking to come up with five minutes of pure thought.” Clear thinking is not a simple matter, certainly when the object of thought is the Torah.

Someone expressed astonishment that Rabbi Aharon Kotler (1891-1962) once pondered an elliptical comment of the Vilna Gaon on Jewish law for five years in order to grasp it. I wasn’t astonished, having spent 16 years trying to fathom the Vilna Gaon’s comments on only two of the hundreds of chapters in the Code of Jewish Law. This may be the extreme exception that proves the rule: Deliberation is always required to understand the Torah, even its straightforward parts.

The 13th way to acquire the Torah: Deliberation.

Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9, Joy; Way #9a, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues; Way #12, Exchanges with students

Copyright © 2018 by the Intermountain Jewish News


Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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