I am a Baal Tshuva and I never had a proper Jewish education. I have come a long way but I am still unable to learn independently (directly from early text). I've been considering some online courses but they all require the ability to learn from sources as a prerequisite (I got a sample pre-shiur pdf with 20 pages of sources ranging from the Talmud to Rishonim to Acharonim, Shulchan Aruch, Ran, Rif, Mishna Brura, Rashi, GRA, Feinstein, you name it).

I wouldn't be able to keep up with these kinds of courses because the load would just pile up every week and the learning curve for me would be very steep.

I've searched all over the internet for softer introductions to learning and haven't found much.

I'm obviously aware of resources like Sefaria but it's only about as helpful as a dictionary is in learning a language.


2 Answers 2


I've been there so I know exactly how you feel. I can share some learnings from experience and a number of resources that helped me a lot to become much more independent.

First, since halacha and gemara don't start anywhere, and assume you know everything else, it is important to cover once, even superficially, all topics so you have a broad understanding. You can do this through the Mishna with a good commentary (e.g., Schottenstein Edition of the Mishna, see what I wrote here). This can be done in English but if you can cover some of the mishnayot in Hebrew this will help with vocabulary. For halacha, use e.g., Kitzur Shulchan Aruch as a base text, or if not too heavy for you Mishne Torah. All are written in clear Hebrew.

Then at some point, you need to break the barrier of learning the Hebrew and Aramaic. This is hard but despite the breadth of resources in English, there is no way to get into the world of halacha without it. I think the easiest is to first learn by heart all the keywords the gemara uses. Three good resources for this are the following small brochures with lists of the most frequently used terminology

Then it would be best if you learned halachic texts with someone fluent in the language so he can teach you. The best is to write down all the words you don't know, learn them and repeat. Two ways to keep this interesting are to either pick a sugya in gemara and take it down all the way to practical halacha through rishonim and acharonim, or alternatively to study halachic teshuvot (see this answer for ideas of halachic teshuvot to start with).

If you learn more visually, you might want to experiment with flashcards, e.g., through an app like Quizlet, which has lots of existing flashcards with Hebrew and Aramaic vocabulary (search for gemara). If you don't already have a learning partner, or want to find more, you could go to an organization such as Partners in Torah which will match you with someone.

There is one book (500$ on amazon as of today or free here) that takes one chapter of Baba Metzia and walks you through it methodically, giving you all the vocabulary you need to go through it piece by piece, with questions to check your understanding all along. Very well done.

It is very important to realize this is a multi-year endeavor and not to get frustrated. It is by far the hardest thing I have learned in my life but highly rewarding once you get cracking.

Finally, reference works I found extremely helpful are

  • R Yitzhak Frank's Practical Talmud Dictionary
  • Talmudo Beyado which is a dictionary organized by page of gemara which lists all more complicated/new words on this page. It also has an excellent appendix of many talmudic concepts

PS. There are more helpful books on how to learn gemara as a beginner or baal tshuva; some of them extremely helpful. You can ask a separate question if you wish to hear more but here's a start.

PPS. I just see now you are based in Tel Aviv, so forget what I said about Hebrew, I still leave it for the benefit of others who might not be fluent yet.


Try webyeshiva. It has a lot of basic courses, and you can do them in the order you choose.

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