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The Talmud in various places references children of that period learning a "verse" on a specific day.

In Gittin 56a of Talmud Bavli:

א"ל לינוקא פסוק לי פסוקיך אמר ליה (יחזקאל כה, יד) ונתתי את נקמתי באדום ביד עמי ישראל וגו' אמר קודשא בריך הוא בעי לחרובי ביתיה ובעי לכפורי ידיה בההוא גברא ערק ואזל ואיגייר ונפק מיניה ר"מ‏

Nero then conducted another test: He said to a child: Tell me the verse that you learned today. He said to him as follows: “And I will lay My vengeance upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel” (Ezekiel 25:14). Nero said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, wishes to destroy His Temple, and He wishes to wipe his hands with that man, i.e., with me. The Romans are associated with Edom, the descendants of Esau. If I continue on this mission, I will eventually be punished for having served as God’s agent to bring about the destruction. So he fled and became a convert, and ultimately Rabbi Meir descended from him.

In Chagigah 15a of Talmud Bavli it says:

תקפיה עייליה לבי מדרשא א"ל לינוקא פסוק לי פסוקך אמר לו (ישעיהו מח, כב) אין שלום אמר ה' לרשעים עייליה לבי כנישתא אחריתי א"ל לינוקא פסוק לי פסוקך אמר לו (ירמיהו ב, כב)‏

Nevertheless, Rabbi Meir took hold of him and brought him to the study hall. Aḥer said to a child, by way of divination: Recite your verse that you studied today to me. He recited the following verse to him: “There is no peace, said the Lord, concerning the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). He brought him to another study hall. Aḥer said to a child: Recite your verse to me. He recited to him: “For though you wash with niter, and take for you much soap, yet your iniquity is marked before Me” (Jeremiah 2:22).

Similarly in Taanit 9a of Talmud Bavli:

אשכחיה ר' יוחנן לינוקא דריש לקיש אמר ליה אימא לי פסוקיך א"ל עשר תעשר א"ל ומאי עשר תעשר א"ל עשר בשביל שתתעשר אמר ליה מנא לך א"ל זיל נסי‏

Rabbi Yoḥanan found the young son of Reish Lakish. He said to the boy: Recite to me your verse, i.e., the verse you studied today in school. The boy said to him: “A tithe shall you tithe.” The boy further said to Rabbi Yoḥanan: But what is the meaning of this phrase: “A tithe shall you tithe”? Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him: The verse means: Take a tithe so that you will become wealthy. The boy said to Rabbi Yoḥanan: From where do you derive that this is so? Rabbi Yoḥanan said to him: Go and test it.


All of this suggests that the children of this time studied a specific verse in depth each day. Do we have additional information as to whether the children of this time studied actually one verse a day and that is it? Or perhaps they studied a range of subjects and halacha but also focused on a specific verse as well and delved into that verse in depth? I assume the latter (as how else could any student learn all of Jewish law and tanakah!) but I'm curious as to what sources we have on this practice.

Also, do we have information that is sourced on how the learning by students of the specific verse each day was done back then?

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    This does not suggest they learned one verse a day. – Dr. Shmuel Aug 13 at 13:40
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    The translation seems to be providing the confusion. It’s likely this is the verse the child was literally learning in the study hall at that very moment. – Dr. Shmuel Aug 13 at 13:59
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    @Dr.Shmuel it references the verse they studied "today" in each case. That doesn't sound like what they are literally learning at that time... Could you please explain how the translations are wrong or why they should be interpreted to mean what they were literally studying at that time rather than the verse they learned today? – Mordechai ben Yosef Aug 13 at 14:05
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    @Dr.Shmuel Indeed, is the translation referencing the verse they "learned" or "studied" (past tense) incorrect in all these sources? I don't think your interpretation is at all "likely" what is happening under the plain reading of these sources. – Mordechai ben Yosef Aug 13 at 14:12
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    In nine of the instances you cite is the English given translation an exact (read: accurate) translation; “you studied today...” doesn’t appear in the original text of the Talmud. A closer [literal] translation would be “recite to me your verse”. Now, what “your verse” means is your question. – Oliver Aug 13 at 14:21
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Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in The Essential Talmud states that children of this era memorized a verse each day as part of their education and that this is what is being referenced when they are asked “recite your verse” or something similar in various parts of the Talmud.

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  • Does he have any source for this claim? It's entirely plausible he's making the same mistake the OP made, leading to xkcd.com/978 – Double AA Aug 13 at 15:19
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    I'm not even sure this answers the question. Which question does it answer? It just provides someone else who made the same assumption as the OP. No new information. – Double AA Aug 13 at 15:20
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    @DoubleAA, my answer to his question is that his assumption is partially wrong (i.e. not the part where he says “All of this suggests that the children of this time studied a specific verse in depth each day”.. which is true per R’ Steinsaltz). The one verse each day that he referenced in his question was not a verse that was learned but a verse that was memorized. He asks “do we have information that is sourced on how the learning by students of the specific verse each day was done back then?”.... I answer this question by stating that they “learned” the one verse by memorizing it. – Akiva___ Aug 13 at 15:44
  • If they only learned one verse a day, it would have taken them over 16 years just to complete the Pentateuch, which means, assuming they began at 5 (as per Avoth) they wouldn't have begun Neviim till they were 21 (assuming they studied in order) which would mean the children cited quoting Ezekiel and Isaiah were not terribly young at all. – Loewian Aug 14 at 5:17
  • No one is saying they learned one verse a day @Loewian we are talking about spending time each day to memorize a verse. And it most certainly was not in order, there are books that discuss how the students would pick the verse to focus on and memorize based on their first letter of their name for instance. – Akiva___ Aug 14 at 15:21

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