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Does Judaism provide and tips, tricks or rituals for improving memory or preventing forgetfulness?

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I don't know of a direct answer but I was taught as a child that certain prayers were written alphabetically for many reasons, one of which was that it made them easier to remember. –  Danno Jan 14 '13 at 21:28
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OMEGA-3?​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ –  Seth J Jan 14 '13 at 21:40
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The Maharsha (Bava Basra 10b) proposes that writing down your learning helps you remember it: שהיו אומרים אשרי שבא לכאן ותלמודו בידו כו'. יש לפרש כי עיקר הלימוד ושנעשה בו רושם הוא הלימוד הבא מכתיבת יד אשר על כן נקראו החכמים סופרים –  Fred Jan 14 '13 at 21:50
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See Avos D'Rabbi Nasan (24) regarding the necessity of reviewing one's studies to prevent forgetting them:הוא היה אומר יכול אדם ללמוד תורה בעשר שנה ולשכחה בשתי שנים. כיצד יושב אדם ששה חדשים ואינו חוזר בה נמצא אומר על טמא טהור ועל טהור טמא. י"ב חודש ... י"ח חודש ... כ"ד חודש ואינו חוזר בה נמצא משכח ראשי מסכתותיו. ומתוך שאומר על טמא טהור ועל טהור טמא ומחליף חכמים זה בזה ומשכח ראשי פרקים וראשי מסכתותיו סוף שיושב ודומם. ועליו אמר שלמה על שדה איש עצל עברתי ועל כרם אדם חסר לב והנה עלה כלו קמשונים כסו פניו חרולים וגדר אבנים נהרסה (משלי כ"ד ל' ול"א). וכיון שנפל כותלו של כרם מיד חרב כל הכרם כולו –  Fred Jan 14 '13 at 22:15
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@SethJ I think your comment belongs on Gershon's citation of the gemara in Horiyos. –  Fred Jan 14 '13 at 22:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I just remembered that I do know the answer to this question. In Eruvin 54, much advice is given on the topic, including:

  • Learn out-loud -- Rabbi Shmuel said to Rav Yehuda: "Open your mouth when you learn written or oral Torah, in order that you will remember it and live a long time." Also, Rabbi Yitzhok said, "Torah is close to you when it is [audible] in your mouth and your heart [intends to fulfill it; alt. Maharsha - if it is audible in your mouth, you will remember it and be able to fulfill it]."
  • Approach your learning with humility -- As Rava, citing the verse "Umi'Midbar Matanah umi'Matanah Nachli'el umi'Nachli'el Bamos...", taught: "When a person makes himself Hefker to all like a Midbar (wilderness), Torah is given to him as a gift; after this, it is like a Nachalah (inheritance) to him; then, he is elevated (Bamos); If he raises himself (becomes haughty), Hash-m lowers him - "Umi'Bamos ha'Gai (the canyon)"; if he repents [from his haughtiness], Hash-m raises him - "Kol Ge Yinasei".
  • Repetition and Review -- G-d taught the Torah to Moses completely through four times; Moses then taught the Torah to just Aaron, then to Aaron and Elazar, then to Aaron, Elazar and the Elders, and then to Aaron, Elazar, the Elders and all of Israel. So Aaron learned it four times from Moses, Elazar learned it three times from Moses, the Elders heard it twice from Moses, and the congregation heard it once from him. Then Moses left and Aaron took over. Each group heard the Torah four times and taught it four times. RAbbi Eliezer learned from this that a student will retain his Torah if he hears it four times. While the Gemara doesn't go further, I would add that we can also learn from this that teaching the subject four times further solidifies the knowledge in one's own brain.
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The Tif'eres Yisra'el (Bo'az, Avos 1:15) gives five points for success in learning and improving the memory:

  1. Not to learn lazily (lying down, leaning, or eating when learning), and not to concentrate on things other than learning. A person should learn out loud to fix this. The gemara tells a story of someone who learned quietly and forgot all his learning after three years. A person shouldn't concern himself with his worries while learning. He shouldn't be extremely happy or sad, excluding the joy he feels because of the learning.

  2. A person should be calm while learning. There should be no distractions in the room in which he is learning. The room should be spacy and have windows. The book from which he is learning should have a clear print.

  3. A person shouldn't take breaks in the middle of learning one thing. A person also shouldn't switch from learning one thing to another so quickly; he should learn a maximum of three things a day. A person shouldn't switch from edition to edition of the same book, from room to room, or from spot to spot in the same room.

  4. Understand the subject well. Once you understand it well, be able to memorize the main idea without looking in the book. A person who wants to make a speech in public should review it a few times the night before and a few times the morning of the speech.

  5. Be in a place where there are no distractions. If you encounter a distraction, strengthen yourself to not pay attention to it.

In his commentary to Avos 2:14 (Yachin 129-131), he writes that a person needs three things for success in learning:

  1. Review everything you learned the next day.

  2. Be able to answer these questions: Who? What? To whom? When? Where? How? Why? Look in the thing you're learning and ask questions such as "Why did it have to use this extra word?" and try to answer them.

  3. Concentrate solely on your learning and don't pay attention to any of your worries.

Also, in Avos 1:13, we learn that one who doesn't increase his learning will forget.

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Horiyos 13b - olive oil is good for the memory. Also dipping the fourth finger in salt prior to Birchas haMazan and licking off the salt.

Yerushalmi Brachos Chapter 5 Halacha 1 - learning inside a Sefer is good for the memory.

Otzar Segulos page 9 - saying Zicharon L'Maaseh Braishis at Kiddush having in mind to help your memory.

Chagiga 9b learning 101 times.

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What is the meaning of "learning inside" which you quote in the name of the Yerushalmi? Inside a room, or from a book? (Also, is it possible to add the halachah or page number for the Yerushalmi?) –  b a Jan 15 '13 at 1:12
    
about 101, I think the source is: אינו דומה שונה פרקו מאה פעמים לשונה פרקו מאה ואחד, Chagiga 9b –  jutky Jan 15 '13 at 7:58
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@jutky Ideally, a source should be cited that interprets this gemara as meaning that 101 should specifically be a target, given that that's the claim in the answer. –  Fred Jan 15 '13 at 18:26

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