Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Developing Love For Learning, Pt. 1

In yeshiva, one of the "sales pitches" used by the rabbeim and mashgichim to get you to learn is that you will be happiest by choosing such a route. We hear countless stories of gedolim whose love for learning was tremendous. I've had rabbeim whose eyes lit up when someone in the class asked a good kasha or made a good point. And I've heard myriad Chazals and statements from mussar sforim testifying that Torah is the ultimate thrill, so to speak.

Yet, the more I think about these Chazals and anecdotes, the more I have difficulty understanding them.

But I was in yeshiva for a while, and I never felt it. I'm gonna save my personal experiences for part 2, but I can name many, many other guys who were in yeshivos and didn't enjoy learning. I can name a good few guys who learned well for a few years and then burned out. What were they missing? Why weren't they feeling it?

Some people will claim that "they weren't in the right yeshiva," "they had a bad chavrusa," and the like, but I don't know. I can see them perhaps clouding the joy of learning, but to make people want to leave yeshiva? What happened to the simchas hatorah?

And then some people blame the media. They say that these yeshiva guys who are busy reading books and watching movies are too distracted to learn well. And again, the "sales pitch" is that if only they would give up their "shmutz" and focus solely on learning, they would enjoy learning so much that they won't miss their other semi-intellectual pleasures of life. But is that true? Maybe some people are simply not cut out for in-depth learning, no matter what.

Besides, people vary greatly when it comes to what they enjoy. Some people enjoy art. They can spend hours at a museum enjoying the finer points of some painting. I know I never got into the stuff. I tried going once, and it simply didn't do anything for me. Some people enjoy the sciences; others can't stand that stuff.

And l'havdil, I think the same is true when it comes to Torah learning. Let's face it. People with great intellectual capacity, great attention spans and great mental stamina have a much greater chance than someone who can barely make a leining, someone who can barely pay attention to
a shiur, and someone who has very little interest in some of the arcane topics that come up.

- One way that the "sales pitch" helps is that it makes learning feel more meaningful. After hearing all about how important learning is, I feel good after an hour of learning, because I know it's better than an hour of TV or an hour of reading a novel.

But think about this way. Let's say I was brought up in a society where botany was the most important thing in the world. And from day one, we were trained that the best way to spend every waking moment would be to study plants. Eventually, even if I can't stand the topic matter, chances are that I'll feel good studying botany. After all, I've been taught that this is the most important thing in life. I've been taught that I was brought to this world to study plants. So when I do that, I'll feel pretty fulfilled.

Anyway, back to the nimshal. So when I learn gemara and end up feeling that emotion of achievement, is that real? Is that the simchas hatorah kicking in? Or is it all in my head?

More to come in Part 2. I'll talk about my experiences in yeshiva, and learning in general.


Blogger Mata Hari said...

it's a good question. i imagine that even if you have the brains, not everyone has the "zitsfleish".
if you feel accomplished and on a high after learning, why question the source? kudos to you.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I actually had a Rebbe in Seminary who showed a TRUE loev for Torah and learning. The joy in his eyes brought tears to mine. I envy his love for Torah and Eretz Yisroel.

Re the movies. In terms of women, which is obviously different, but what I know better, I wonder about these women who make it top priority to see a movie or go to the gym, but did they daven that day? When was the last time they went to a shiur??

4:59 PM  

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