Tell me if this makes sense. Firstly, what makes you assume that you should be enjoying learning gemara? Are you trying to get your reward in this world? 😉 Do you think this is something easy and simple and natural that it should just happen? Do you think you are zoche? Nowadays, it seems, we can’t just learn because it is the right thing to do anymore. We feel like that we really should be enjoying it, it should be making us feel like we are doing what we were born to do, and we are instinctively aware of what that should feel like, especially when it doesn't feel like that... And it is possible for everyone.
On the one hand, Karov Elecha Meod. It is natural for a Jew to keep all Torah with his heart, to love it and be in awe of it. On the other hand, how dare we presume to be able to achieve this? Meaning, don’t expect that we’ll be able to force this, or find some trick or technique, or settle for something superficial. Yes, it is possible to find superficial ways to boost our enjoyment of learning, but also recognise that there is an actual real acquisition of this, to naturally love learning, in a way that doesn’t require any forcing. Until we are zoche to receive that, don’t worry if you aren’t enjoying it! We can’t really, for that we really need penimius. This is a topic discussed a lot in Chassidus. Let’s talk about how you get it before we describe what it is.
The last chapter of Avot discusses acquiring Torah. When it is acquired, then it becomes part of who you are. It’s yours. Our neshama’s essence is knowledge (and middot). Meaning, we are designed to become what we know; you know that 2 + 2 = 4, and you can’t ever come to believe 2 + 2 = 5 without serious rewiring of who you are. However, we are, rightly, very guarded about which knowledge we let sink in to peniumius and transform us, because the effect is so powerful.
When it comes to Torah, what our neshama is really waiting for is to find out what is so important about it. Think about it, it’s Hashem’s Torah. Hashem’s Master Plan, Hashem’s people. We are a beings of purpose and given a cosmic mission. Surely, it has to be of such infinite profound importance, that one should open a page of gemara and feel that every word they read blows their mind, given that Hashem, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Infinitely Good wrote it! We don’t find it on the first daf, so we hope it’s on the second. It doesn’t come, so we keep hoping, maybe I just need a few more dapim, maybe it takes a while, maybe I need to finish a masechte, shas. When will the important thing come? Surely debating oxen falling in pits is not Hashem’s Infinite Cosmic Plan!
But Karov Elecha Meod. Just because we haven’t found the important thing yet, we definitely will if we sincerely want to. It won’t take too much effort, and it is guaranteed to be there. If we keep looking, if you decide to really go for it, go and ask everyone you can, try different shiurim, stay up late thinking about it, praying for it sincerely, it won’t take long and Hashem will bless us with success and we will find our personal chelek in Torah, our own inheritance and our free gift from Hashem. It is Karov Elecha Meod, and once one has it, it will unlock all of the Torah as in light of it, everything else will make much more sense.
So what does penimius look like? It’s hard to put into words, but the first word that comes to mind is personal. It means that you feel like it is yours, it is you. You certainly have this feeling with other things – we all do. Whether it be a sport, a hobby, a television series (l’havdil). We have that feeling like this is part of our identity, so much so that we would be proud to wear a t-shirt of it, our ears perk when we hear people speak about it, we feel tremendous pride when we hear someone call us an expert in it, we would love nothing more than to spend an evening discussing it or hearing a new chiddush about it or finding a new book about it*.
Dear Yid, when one has discovered what is so important, when one has one's “aha, I knew it! I was saying this all along!” and they are on the same page as Hashem, then they feel this penimius way about Torah, about Hashem, about the Jewish people (all three are one after all, see Zohar). It won’t feel like people who learn gemara and love it are geeks - they themself will love it and it will feel natural and normal and they will wonder why everyone else treats them like a geek now! They will be very close with Hashem and get excited to find out more and more about Him (and gemara is vital for that!), because, after all, the Torah is revealing Him in every word. It will be a real “inspiration”. It won’t wear off and require constant maintenance, just like one don’t need “chizuk” to find the energy to watch one's favourite sports team or whatever.
I can’t tell you what the important thing is (and thus, there is no direct answer to your question). Everyone has their own mission in this world. There are 12 tribes, and 600,000 letters. But please, don’t seek superficial answers, don’t settle for ignorance, and especially don’t defend ignorance by declaring “we can’t know” what is the importance. We CAN, well, thoroughly, deeply (doesn't have to be complex, but deep and real). It is all available (despite what you might hear! maybe people once used to ask their important question(s) and gave up!). We have so many different opportunities to learn the inner parts of the Torah – whatever it is we need to personally know – after 3000 years and many amazing holy teachers, any question you can have has been answered somewhere, and now we have incredible technology and proliferation of access. One might not find it in one's gemara class, but keep seeking, asking and searching and of course DAVENING! Hashem will bless us that we should be zoche to find our penimius in Torah sooner rather than later.
If you have already found your penimius, but are still feeling uninspired, please keep learning more and more. Find that area that got you excited once and see if you can go deeper, and deeper still. The Torah is endless and you can always go deeper, enough to fill up a lifetime of endless joyful learning and getting closer to Hashem.
Otherwise, if you have no clue where to start, then I might recommend starting with some Chabad Chassidus, which is all about very deep Yediyat Hashem, rethinking Judaism as a relationship with Him, rather than a religion (see this amazing Rambam), and explains things like this – most of this answer is based on Chabad Chassidus and I am happy to provide sources if you have a question on any particular point. You or anyone reading this can also start a chat with me and I am happy to go into more detail, give examples and hear more about what’s going on, but if this hasn’t come through enough yet, ultimately this is personal to you, and nothing less will suffice, the less external “impurities” the better!
A question to think about: A man comes to me and says “Rabbi, I bring my wife coffee every morning, I have been doing so diligently for 30 years. But I must say, I’m just not getting anything out of it. I don’t feel any connection or how this is relevant.” What should we say to him?
*We are like it with these things because we feel we chose them for ourselves (conversely, when a friend recommends something for us, that in itself is often off-putting - we like to make our own choices), so part of it is choosing Hashem, in the same way He chose us, and this choosing has to be from us, and not feel like we are being made to do so by someone else.