On the one hand:

Torah study protects forever, in this life, in death, and in the resurrection of the dead. (Sotah 5b, paraphrased)

Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish said: Troubles are removed from all those who study Torah. (Berachot 5a)

On the other hand:

"Because he despised the word of the Lord and has breached His commandment, that soul shall be excised [hikkaret tikkaret]; his iniquity shall be upon him"... “hikkaret”, cut off in this world, “tikkaret”, cut off in the World-to-Come... Rabbi Nehorai says: This is about anyone who could engage in Torah but who did not engage. (Sanhedrin 99a, which is codified in Halacha in Mishna Torah and the Shulchan Aruch)

“He who commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding,” Reish Lakish says: This is one who studies Torah intermittently, as stated [on the subject of Torah] “For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within your belly; let them be established on your lips.” (Sanhedrin 99b)

The Holy One forgave Israel even for Avodah Zara and murder, but for neglecting Torah study Hashem never forgave them. (Yerushalmi Chagigah 1:6)

How should one reconcile these different Talmud quotes? It seems to be that the first two quotes sound as though even a little Torah will go a long way, but the next three seem all or nothing, and if you waste time once in a blue moon it could all be thrown away! Please help me in my endeavor to understand the Talmud and have a Torah-based viewpoint on the mitzvah of learning Torah.

Additionally, this is not my main question but a related aside, Chagigah 9a says, "'A twisted thing cannot be corrected.' Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai says this refers to a Torah Sage who separated himself from the Torah," but Chagigah 15b says "A Torah scholar, even if he sinned [lit: was soured], his Torah does not become repulsive," referring to Achar, and if anyone is one who "separated himself from the Torah," it would be he!

1 Answer 1


Forgive me if I have misunderstood, but I don't think the two sides are contradictory. You are assuming that it is relevant to the same person, but if a person is engaging in Torah there is less chance he will succumb to his Yetzer Hara and sin.

The sources in Sanhedrin you bring are about scenarios when someone either does not learn Torah at all or fleetingly. The third source is clear that if a person is devoid of Torah they lack the ethical mindset and that is why they were led astray. Had they engaged in Torah they would not necessarily have stumbled.

Note the Shemos Rabbah 51:7:

מִשְׁכַּן הָעֵדֻת, מָה הָעֵדֻת, זוֹ תּוֹרָה שֶׁהֵם יְגֵעִים בָּהּ. אָמַר הָאֱלֹהִים בִּזְכוּת הַתּוֹרָה וּבִזְכוּת הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת אֲנִי מַצִּיל אֶתְכֶם מִגֵּיהִנֹּם

“The Tabernacle of Testimony” – what is “the Testimony”? This is the Torah in which they toil. G-d said: Due to the merit of the Torah and the merit of the offerings, I will rescue you from Gehinnom.

Simply put, someone who is engaging in Torah, is unlikely to sin - בָּרָאתִי יֵצֶר הָרָע וּבָרָאתִי לוֹ תּוֹרָה תַּבְלִין - "I created an evil inclination, which is the wound, and I created Torah as its antidote" (Kiddushin 30b).

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