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In Yeshiva, I was taught it is best to learn out loud when learning from a sefer, and ideally with a pleasant song. I've seen many sources since then that mention it. Some people find this hard, because it is a strain on their voice or they find it harder to concentrate this way, or they are not musical etc.

Would someone be able to bring a source that discusses this topic of learning out-loud rather than quietly? The more extensively it covers the topic the better!

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In addition to what @Shmuel has written.

When a person learns out loud it allows for both the acquisition and retention of Torah. The Gemara in Eiruvin 54a relates that Bruriah (the wife of Rabbi Meir) once found a student learning in an undertone and she was quick to scold him. Using this as an entry point, the Gemara goes on to explain the importance of learning out loud and the resultant side-effects for those who do not fall in line with this practice. @Shmuel has already enumerated how Rabbi Eliezer relates that he once had a student who learnt in a low voice and within the space of three years, the student forgot his learning. Therefore, it would seem that it is not enough to just read the text with one’s eyes. One needs to actively verbalise the words, since when a person learns out loud, it serves to embed the Torah within a person’s memory.

Immense importance is therefore attributed to learning in this manner and is supported in Halacha. Both the Shulchan Aruch, YD, 246:22 and Rambam in Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:12 say:

"וכל המשמיע קולו בשעת תלמודו תלמודו מתקיים בידו. אבל הקורא בלחש במהרה הוא שוכח"

“And anyone who makes his voice heard while studying, his learning remains in his hand (i.e. endures for him), but one who reads silently will forget quickly”.

Also note the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, YD, Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:12 who states that Torah study is comparable to other mitzvos associated with speech. As such, a person cannot fulfil his obligation through mere thought, and must either vocalise the words himself or hear from someone else who reads out loud.

The Pele Yoetz takes this further by explaining that when a person articulates the words of Torah, the sound ascends to Hashem and “pierces through the heavens”. For this reason;

"וחשוב מאד לפני המקום הקורא בקול בשפה ברורה משמח אלוקים"

“It is very important before Hashem for one to read with his voice with clear articulation as it gladdens Hashem”.

From this we learn that when a person does not learn out loud, not only does he prevent the תורה from remaining in his memory, but also he misses out on an opportunity to give Hashem pleasure.

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  • Yes I recently saw a source that the Shechina is able to have some cheer from listening to the voices of people learning in Batei Midrash, good point. It's striking the Shulchan Aruch HaRav states it is halacha to learn out loud!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 12, 2023 at 21:15
  • @Shmuel - I only took the time now to read through your answer properly and saw you also mention the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch HaRav - it was not my intention to duplicate what you said apologies.
    – Dov
    Jan 12, 2023 at 21:35
  • @Dov no problem at all!
    – Shmuel
    Jan 16, 2023 at 12:53
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The Gemara in Eruvin 54a discusses the idea of learning out loud. It begins with a story of a student of R' Eliezer, who would study quiet, but then, after three years, the student would forget all he has learned:

Rabbi Eliezer had a student who would study quietly, and after three years he forgot his studies.

In Proverbs 4:22, it says:

For they are life to those who find them

The Gemara interprets this to mean, based on the word לְמֹצְאֵיהֶ֑ם "to find"

Do not read: “To those who find them [lemotzeihem],” but rather “to those who express them [lemotzi’eihem],” with their mouth.

The whole idea of learning out loud, is that when singing, speaking etc.. you use your body in it. When doing this, you'll retain more than if you study quietly:

if the Torah is ordered in your 248 limbs, i.e., if you exert your entire body in studying it, it will be secure, and if not, it will not be secure.

The Maharsha on this Gemara explains:

ערוכה כל כו' דריש לי' אלימוד תורה דכתיב לעיל מיניה כי ברית עולם שם לי דהיינו התורה שנאמר בה אם לא בריתי יומם וגו' ואמר ערוכה בכל דהיינו בכל רמ"ח אברים שהדיבור בקול רם מביא הרגשה ותנועה לכל האברים וק"ל:

ArtScroll, in their version of Eruvin 54a, mentions in footnote 3:

Therefore, one should always study in a loud voice, because that stimulates movement in all the limbs of one's body, involving them all in the learning process, and that ensures that one's learning will not be forgotten.

The Rambam, in Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:12 says:

[...] And any who makes his voice heard and the time of his study, his learning is sustained in his hand, but the one who reads quietly forgets quickly.

In Yehoshua 1:8, the Torah states:

This book of the Torah shall not depart out of thy mouth;

The Metzudos Dovid, on Yehoshua 1:8 explains this to mean:

Because through use from your mouth, lest you forget what.

See also Peninei Halakhah (footnote):

“This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth. You shall meditate thereon day and night.” Although in-depth study of certain matters is possible and perhaps even preferable to do via one’s thoughts, still, at all other times it is necessary to learn by saying the words out loud (Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 2:12). In that way, the learning one accomplishes becomes clearer and the abstract ideas he learned via thought are understood better. Further, someone who learns out loud remembers his learning better (see Eiruvin 54a). However, the Vilna Gaon (Gra) maintains that even though the essence of one’s learning should be done out loud, nonetheless, even thinking the words and ideas of the Torah is part of the mitzvah, as it says (Joshua 1:8), “You shall meditate thereon day and night,” and “meditating” is thinking.

The Peninei Halakhah mentions the opinion of the Kaf HaChayim:

someone who is reading a book usually will also read with his mouth. Nevertheless, although it is good to take into consideration the opinion of the Gra, one must say a few verses aloud after Birkot HaTorah in order to adjoin the blessing to the learning.

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  • @RabbiKaii Glad to be of help! Ty!
    – Shmuel
    Feb 4, 2023 at 19:52
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All that has been said is true in regards to learning Nigleh, the revealed level of the Torah. Now, for Nistar, i.e., Kabbalah the matter can be entirely different. As it is written, "The silent voice is the supernal voice from which all other voices proceed" (Zohar 210a, Vayigash). Silent learning allows for a greater level of introspection and integration in the intellect of the deep concepts, which cannot be understood from a mere rational reading aloud, nor by simple reasoning. The nistarim-secrets are hidden and require a different level of learning. This is so although the binah-rational mind is in always and constantly in zivug-union with the chochmah-intuitive mind, the intuitive level takes precedence, and its source is in the sefirah of chochmah (right-brain activity), that is, koach mah - the "power of what", where the mah-what signifies silence from unknowingness and the emptiness of Ego-orientation to a G'dliness-oriented mindset. There is much more, but this should suffice for now.

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  • Thanks I upvoted because I like the idea of the chashmal (and it's a good answer anyway)
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 13, 2023 at 14:52

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