(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis
Date: Sun, 7 Feb 1999 18:38:53 -0500 (EST)
From: Russell Hendel < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: People who never sinned
Both Torah Forum Vol 4 Number 52 and 53 it was incorrectly cited and taken
out of context that the Tanya suggests that a person who ABSTAINS from
extra Torah study has committed a sin.
I believe that this is totally contrary to the Torah Viewpoint and the
basic tenets of Chasidus.
Rather than use a philosophical approach I cite the primary Jewish sources
of law (Shulchan Aruch, Aruch Hashulchan etc). Shouldn't it be Jewish law
(rather than ourselves) that decides what is sin? We can accomplish this
with 5 bullets. These 5 bullets will also illustrate the proper way to read
the Shulchan Aruch.
1) TNACH: It says explicitly (Dt 6:7) "...You shall learn them ..when you
wake and when you go to sleep". It further says (Jos 1:8)"..This book of
the Torah shall not depart from your mouth and you shall utter them day and
2) TALMUD: (Mnachoth 99) The talmud raises the question whether the above
mentioned requirement of "continual study" MEANS "all the time" or "once a
day and once a night". This is a controversy in the Talmud (and seems to
apply to other matters (like the "continual bread" (Lev 24)).
3) RAMBAM: (Law of Torah 1:8): "Every Jew is obligated in Talmud Torah
whether he is poor or rich...all Jews must set ASIDE TIMES IN THE DAY AND
EVENING TO STUDY"
4) ARUCH HASHULCHAN (246:7) "As is clear from the CAPPED words the Rambam
decided the Talmudic controversy according to the "once a day and night"
interpretation. (NOTE: The Rambam is read IN LIGHT of the Talmud..)
The ARUCH HASHULCHAN brings down sources about people who studied AT ALL
TIMES but concludes that "this applies to people like those in the desert
that received manna from heaven...but we who have to earn a living have no
5) TANYA: (Chap 34) Explicitly states the great joy a person should get
from learning his one chapter or perek a day. (In his edition of the
Shulchan Aruch the Alter Rebbe also holds this...however if a person can
learn more and does not do so than the position of the alter rebbe is that
he has sinned).
I should mention in passing that one of the accomplishments of Chasidus was
to rid the masses of the guilt feelings brought on by the mithnagdim (those
against the spiritual movement of the Ba'al Shem Tov). A person who has a
family and children and works and sets aside time to learn in the morning
and evening HAS FULFILLED HIS OBLIGATION and SHOULD BE PRAISED.
I hope this clarifies this complicated issue. In summary, the minimal Torah
obligation is to learn a chapter in the day and one in the night. Anything
extra is meritorious but its absence is not a sin (unless perhaps one has
extraordinary mental and economic capacities). Thus people NEED not sin and
it is possible to learn Torah properly
Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA Rhendel @ mcs drexel edu