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Desire to Study Torah

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Topic: Study, Torah, How to Start

[Name withheld] wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I have strong desire for studying the Torah, specifically the Talmud. What I mean by desire is that I want to be a Talmid Chacham [Torah Scholar]. The trouble is that I do not have the energy to become a Talmid Chacham. I want Torah delivered to me on a silver platter. I desire the will to study day and night. It is not there. I want to have an ecstatic experience of learning! It comes ever so rarely. I experience a lot of frustration in my learning. The Talmud only stares at me. The letters do not dance before me. I guess what I am saying is that I pine for Ahavat HaTorah [Love of the Torah]. How does one achieve that level? What steps can be taken, if any?

Dear [E-mail withheld],

You are not alone. Every day we pray for enjoyment of Torah study when we say "Please, Hashem, sweeten the words of Torah in our mouth." But like anything worth doing, the initial stage is often a struggle. I always tell my students: "Everyone wants to be a great Torah scholar, but no one wants to become one."

But you can't button your shirt wearing boxing gloves. That is, you can't tap into the Torah's sweetness while steeped in physical desires. Torah's true sweetness is spiritual, so it takes a certain amount of refinement to achieve. The Sages say, "Before praying to internalize Torah wisdom, pray to not internalize food and drink." That is, pray not to be overpowered by physical drives.

Enjoyment starts with clarity and discovery. If you study too fast and get confused, or too slow and get bored, then you can't enjoy it. You need to discover the learning technique right for you.

And finally, prayer is vital to success in learning. The great Torah scholar Rabbi Yonasan Eibshitz, zatzal, attributed all his success in Torah study to his prayer.

An encouraging point. Struggle must produce results. May you find success and enjoyment in your Torah study.

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