Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #3, “Articulate Speech”
Go into a library and start reading out loud and you will quickly be ushered out of the room. Quiet!
Not so in the acquisition of Torah.
The late master of Torah, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv (1910-1912), was known for studying Torah at six-hour stretches for up to 18 hours a day. It was all done out loud.
He repeated the Talmudic text out loud, he phrased the questions he perceived in the text out loud, and he answered them, or struggled with them, out loud.
He talked to himself.
What is heard, at least when the subject of study is the Torah, goes in deeper, more permanently.
A “study hall” in the Lithuanian yeshiva tradition sounds like a zoo.
Go in. People are talking, often even screaming. Not only is the typical student articulating his point to his study partner. He may even be robustly gesticulating in arguing for his logic.
It’s like a courtroom. Lawyers and witnesses aren’t just sharing briefs. They’re articulating their points. The spoken word has its own power. Oral argument trumps the written word in the search for truth.
True, to listen to a Torah teacher is critical (“attentive listening”; Way #2). Now comes the related but additional level: to listen to oneself, to speak out one’s ideas.
This is the third way to acquire the Torah: Auditory lerning. Say it out loud. Listen to yourself. It’s an effective way to detect your own lapses in logic or understanding, and then to reformulate your thoughts in a more coherent way.
The third way to acquire the Torah: Articulate Speech.