Related: comment thread in What should a Jew learn regularly?

In the end of the Shulchan Aruch Harav Yoreh Deah, chelek ה, the Alter Rebbe has a wonderful exposition on the laws of Talmud Torah. In פרק ב, he talks about the obligation we have not to forget our Torah learning. I don't know that I've seen another exposition that goes into so much detail, and is so absolutely clear (הלכה ח):

ח וגם מי שיודע בעצמו שהוא שכחן גדול בטבעו ותולדתו שאף אם יחזור על לימודו פעמים אין מספר לא יזכור כי אם זמן מה ואח"כ ישכח מעט מעט לא יוכל לפטור נפשו מלאו זה דפן תשכח ומצות ושננתם שנתבאר למעלה כי מצות התורה שוות לכל נפש מישראל ולא ניתנה תורת כל אחד ואחד בידו שיהיה זה חייב במצוה זו וזה פטור ממנה לגמרי מחמת טבעו ותולדתו אלא כל אחד חייב לזכור דברי תורה בלבו כפי יכולתו והשגת כח זכרונו אם מעט ואם הרבה דברי תורה. ועל זה אמרו לא עליך המלאכה לגמור כגון מי שהוא שכחן גדול ואם יהיה שונה הלכות רק פרק אחד ביום ויחזור עליו מאה פעמים ויותר ואפילו כל היום כולו לא יוכל לזכרו היטב כי אם חודש אחד על דרך משל ואח"כ אם לא יחזור עליו יתחיל לשכוח מעט מעט הרי זה חייב לעשות כן ללמוד בכל יום רק פרק אחד ולחזור עליו כל היום כולו וכן יעשה שלשים יום ואח"כ בסוף החדש יחזור על השלשים פרקים אלו כמה פעמים עד שיוכל לזכרם היטב עוד ג' או ד שבועות על דרך משל ואח"כ ילמוד בתוך כך עוד פרק אחד בכל יום ויחזור עליו כל היום כולו ויעשה כן עד כלות הג' או ד' שבועות אלו ואזי יחזור עוד פעם או שתים על שלשים פרקים הראשונים וגם על פרקים האחרונים שלמד בג' או ד שבועות אלו עד שיוכל לזכור הכל עוד כמה שבועות ובתוך כך ילמוד עוד פרק אחד בכל יום. וכן יעשה להיות מוסיף והולך פרק אחד בכל יום בכל ימים שבינתיים בין חזרה לחזרה עד שילמוד כל כך הרבה משנה ותלמוד בענין כשיצטרך לחזור על הראשונות בסוף כל חדש כפי טבעו שאינו יכול לזכור היטב יותר מחדש אחד על דרך משל אזי ישהה בחזרה זו כל החדש כולו עד שיחזור על כל לימוד שלמד עד עתה וכן יעשה לעולם מידי חדש בחדשו לחזור תמיד על הראשונות.

Someone who knows about himself that he is very forgetful by his nature, so that if he reviews many times he will still not remember more than a certain time and then forget, he may not therefore free himself of this prohibition [of allowing himself to forget], and the obligation of ושננתם explained above. For mitzvos of the Torah are for all Jews, not for each to decide which ones he should keep, or skip because of his difficult nature. Rather, everyone is obligated to remember Torah to the best of his ability, a little or a lot...
Say someone is very forgetful, and if he learns a section of halacha today and reviews it a hundred times and more, all day long, he will only be able to remember it for a month, say, and then slowly forget. He would be obligated to learn only one section a day and review it all day, and do that for each of thirty days, and at the end review them all, till, say, he'll remember for another few weeks. During that time he can learn another section each day and review that all day, and then review everything so that he can remember it all for another few weeks, and learn more during that time... And so should he continue to add a perek at a time between reviews... If he sometimes needs to take off a full month to review he should do that too... and so continue forever, always reviewed everything he learned...

See all his words. This section has fascinated me for many years. His words are so clear and unmistakeable, so absolute. As he says very clearly, לא עליך המלאכה לגמור: You don't need to learn the whole Torah. You do need to remember every thing you've learned, and learn as much as you can using that guideline.
And yet...
Does anyone do this, Chabad or otherwise? I know all yeshivos include time for review, but I've never seen one that acknowledges that each student has an obligation to make sure that they remember every single thing they've learned, to the extent that they are just not allowed to continue otherwise.
We all know people with amazing memories who remember a tremendous amount of their Torah, Baruch Hashem. But notice that he is very explicitly not talking about someone with a good memory; his whole example is about someone with a much worse memory than most of us. The Rebbe still thinks that this person's obligation to remember every single thing he has learned takes precedence over - all the rest of his learning.
If people and yeshiva programs do not do this - I know they don't! - are there other opinions that justify it? Or am I misunderstanding what the Alter Rebbe is saying here? Is it just a "Midrash", a lofty goal to strive for?

Addendum: Several have pointed out that there are programs that emphasize chazarah seriously, and that actually attempt a chazarah system that will enable the student to remember what he learns. Oraysa, KinyanHaMasechta, and others. Which is a wonderful thing. I guess the part I'm missing is the clarity that the Alter Rebbe presents, that if you are going to lose track of part of it, you need to stop going forward with the chaburah and do whatever chazarah is necessary so that you don't forget any of it. In other words, that if there's a choice, chazarah needs to win.
It could be that the answer is that this is a very individual kind of decision, and an organized chaburah can't make those kinds of decisions for its students. What more can they do than set up enough chazarah that they think is sufficient for most people?

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    – msh210
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 20:54


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