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I am interesting in working on memorizing something - anything that I can have with me in my head that I can review at random times throughout the day. In terms of the “what” to memorize, I am curious if there are any sources that describe whether there is something in particular this is good to memorize (I.e., Mishnayos, certain parts of Gemara?)

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  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/77963/…
    – Dov
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:39
  • Throughout Shas there are many maamarei chazal which praise people for memorising their learning as well as listing techniques for memory retention, but not actually saying what one should learn.
    – Dov
    Jan 4, 2023 at 18:50
  • The Rebbe Rayatz extols the benefits of learning mishnayos by heart in yesterday's Hayom Yom.
    – shmosel
    May 31, 2023 at 3:39

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First of all, it is important to remember that you'll need to not take a huge load upon yourself with regard to memorizing texts, as Rashi writes:

and studying much is a weariness of the flesh And if he comes to memorize large amounts, more than the heart can grasp, that is weariness to man, but let one not say, “Since I cannot complete the work, why should I begin?”

Rashi's advice is:

What you can, do, and let your heart be to Heaven.

In the sefer "Orchos Chaim: Ben Torah For Life", Rabbi Aaron Lopiansky describes different goals of learning Torah (p. 153, Chapter 5 What to Learn):

  1. To know that which is incumbent upon us to do;'
  2. To be inspired;
  3. To become intellectually engaged in Torah.

These three form the foundation of my answer to your question:

I am curious if there are any sources that describe whether there is something in particular this is good to memorize (I.e., Mishnayos, certain parts of Gemara?)

Certainly Halacha (Maybe start with learning Mishnayos by heart), since Rabbi Lopiansky writes: "The first reason is that without learning halachah, we will not perform the mitzvos properly [...]. Only by learning Halacha can we recognise an issue when we see it" (Ibid., p. 153).

Rabbi Soloveitchik in his commentary on the Gemara, "Reshimos Shiurim" explains that the mitzvah of learning the Written Torah,

obligates each person to memorize and recite the verses orally [in order to fulfill the mitzvah of learning the Written Torah.]

So, according to Rav Soloveitchik, memorizing pesukim in Torah is always a good idea to start off with.

Based on Orchos Chaim by Rabbi Lopiansky, I would recommend memorizing the following sources (choose for yourself what is manageable and what not).

Halacha

  • Basic Halachos without Mishnah Berurah (review it a few times, this will help memorizing it). For example: learn the halacha of Krias Shema or learn halacha of Shabbos;
  • Mishnah Berurah (I would recommend learning the same halachos as you did in step 1);
  • Shulchan Aruch and then learn the Rama;
  • Chayei Adam.

Please note that I am not saying you should memorize the whole of Shulchan Aruch. Rather, choose a topic that suits you. As one of my most favourite lessons in Gemara teaches us:

Rabbi said: One can learn Torah only in a place which his heart desires

Gemara

  • Choose a perek in Gemara and learn it thoroughly with the commentary of Rashi;
  • If you are fluent in Rashi and that Gemara, you can choose to memorize that particular Tosfos on that Gemara you've learned.

One of the best advices Rabbi Lopiansky gives, is:

Choose material to learn that can be clearly defined. This might be a perek in Shas, an area of Halachah, etc.

In addition to this, I would like to end this answer with some great piece of advice from the Ramak (Moshe Kordovero), in his work "Or Neerav":

The reader should approach these books in two ways. First of all, he should review the texts many times, making notes in order to remember [his] studies fluently. He should not delve too deeply at first. Secondly, he should study the material with great concentration according to his ability.

The Steipler Gaon responds in a letter send to him (Karyana D'Igarta; letter titled כל ת"ח מוכרח ללמוד כל חלקי התורה ) that the main goal of the mitzvah of learning Torah, is to delve deeply into a subject, so that at the end of your study, you'll be able to give instructions in that matter. Let's say you are learning Berachos, then you'll be able to respond to matters regarding berachos at the end of your studies. That is how one should approach his studies.

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