From the Mishna B'rura's introduction to the rules of Shabas:

…But by what means can we arrive at this level: that one keeps Shabas in all its details? The advice on this is that one urge himself to study the rules of Shabas and to review them always so he knows what's forbidden and what's permitted. Without that, even if he learns all the exhortatory things that urge one to keep Shabas properly, that won't help him.… [Rabbi Yonasan Eybeschutz] already assured us that it is utterly impossible in practice to be saved from committing a Shabas prohibition unless he learns all the rules very well.

I seem to recall a similar idea written about the rules of lashon hara — and, indeed, much the same can be said about many areas of halacha.

Considering that a twelve- or thirteen-year-old is obliged to follow all the details of halacha, it would seem, therefore, to behoove elementary-school teachers to focus on halacha to the extent that their students will retain it. Yet we don't find teachers doing so: halacha is relegated to perhaps four hours a week. Why is this?

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    Because most children learn "Hilchot Shabbat" == "How to Keep Shabbat" for 25 hours each week at home.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 6:26
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    @DoubleAA, and you can say the same for other area of halacha (which, note, I also am asking about.) But obviously the Chafetz Chayim didn't find that sufficient!
    – msh210
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 6:42
  • I saw an interview in ?mishpacha? with a Rov in Lud. He said that in his yeshiva (a very prominent litvish yeshiva), the mashgiach used to look around the Beis medrash to "catch" people learning Shulchan Aruch. He said that people would get in serious trouble for such a crime. Commented May 6, 2012 at 7:50
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    I didn't start mishna till 7th grade, gemara till 9th but was doing halacha sheets and discussions from a mu8ch younger age. Yes, I had lots of chumash but when we started mishna, it was with an eye towards actual practice, not esoterica. I still don't know everything I need to but I owned my own kitzur and chayeii adam before i had my own set of mishnayos.
    – rosends
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 17:05
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    Very similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/50883
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 20:47

3 Answers 3


The Tur writes in his introduction to Hilchos Shabbos that "all thirty nine Melachos and their Toldos are known, and there is no need [to write about them] at length...."

It also says in the introduction to Siman 80 in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch that "most of the prohibitions of Shabbos are known to most Jews, so only prohibitions that are common and unknown will be written here." so he wrote only some 90 syifim in that siman (the only one dealing with actual hilchos Shabbos). On average that's some two siyifim per melacha. In contrast, the Ktzos Hashulchan (which is a kitzur on Orach Chayim written by R' Avrohom Chaim Noeh, which did include Hilchos Shabbos) has volume 5-9 (that's how far he got before pasing away, so there may have planned on writing more) on Hilchos Shabbos (where only volume 1 and 2 deal with all of Orach Chayim until Hilchos Shabbos).

  • Great find! This reinforces my point above.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 17:10
  • @DoubleAA I know, that's why I deleted my old answer Commented May 6, 2012 at 17:33
  • The Aruch Hashulchan seems to criticize the Tur (and Shulchan Aruch) for this in O.C. 242:7.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 13, 2018 at 4:12

The method you state is in fact that of earlier times. Consider the Mishna (Avot 5:21) that says:

הוא היה אומר, בן חמש שנים למקרא, בן עשר למשנה, בן שלש עשרה למצות, בן חמש עשרה לתלמוד...‏

What is referred to as "Mishnah" is halacha lema'aseh. "Talmud", (which probably isn't referring to what we know today as the published Talmud,) often means the reasons and details of halacha (see, for example, Rashi Bava Metzia 33a D"H Gemara). "Talmud" was reserved for older students; first they were taught the actual practicable halacha.

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    I don't know about Talmudic times. Many think this Mishna is a from a later (a/e)dition. The Rambam, for instance, doesn't have it in his version in Perush HaMishnayot. See Tos Y"T for some other ideas about its origin.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 7:30
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    @DoubleAA Oh thats why i couldn't find it on mechon-mamre.org!
    – Hahu Gavra
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 7:39
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    The question is why did we change the seder? Commented May 6, 2012 at 7:45
  • On the other hand, Qohelet Rabah on 7:28: "בנוהג שבעולם, אלף בני אדם נכנסים למקרא, יוצאין מהן עשרה למשנה". Or as Rashi on Qohelet 7:28, s.v. Adam 'Echad me-Elef Matzati, puts it( in translation): "It is customary in the world that [out of] a thousand who enter [a school] to learn Scripture, only one hundred emerge from them to succeed to be fit for Mishnah ...". This would mean 90% would be excluded from learning Halakhah le-Ma'aseh, as you define Mishnah.
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 6:26
  • In my last comment, the link to the translated Rashi should have been: chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16468#v=28&showrashi=true .
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 6:35

Because it's pointless to spend thousands of hours teaching technical laws without first providing a robust framework for why any of it matters. By focusing solely on the trees, you'll lose sight of the forest. Not to mention children have problems focusing on and memorizing on such minutia.

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