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The basic mitzva of learning Torah can be fulfilled minimally with Kerias Shema. This comes from a Gemara in Menachos (99b) which goes through several conflicting interpretations of the verse in Yehoshua which says "והגית בו יומם ולילה"; "and you will/shall contemplate it day and night." The same Gemara records a machlokes about whether it is a mitzva to tell this to the lay people - so they'll feel like they're already worth something and perhaps be motivated to do more; or it is forbidden to tell them - because this knowledge might cause them to be even more lax than they already are. Shach (YD 246:1) rules in accordance with Rava, that it is a mitzva to inform people of this.

There is another Gemara (Shabbos 31a) which discusses things that we will all have to give an accounting for in the future, and one of the things is whether or not we set aside time for learning. In this vein the Tur and Shulchan Aruch rule (OC 155) that one ought to set aside time each day for learning Torah. This is known as kevias ittim.

Question: Is the halacha of kevias ittim an absolute obligation which is separate from one's general obligation to learn each day - the one that is technically fulfilled through the evening and morning kerias shema? Or is the only absolute obligation the general mitzva of talmud torah as it is delineated in Menachos, and the Gemara in Shabbos is simply telling us the proper way to live (a Pirkei Avos/darkei hamussar kind of thing)?

I am leaning toward the latter understanding. Some reasons: 1) If you still have to be kovea ittim then it seems a bit disingenuous for the Gemara to say that one is technically finished with his minimum obligation of talmud torah after the morning and evening kerias shema. 2) If kevias ittim is an absolute obligation then I would assume it has some basis in Tanach. As far as I know the only relevant pasuk is והגית בו יומם ולילה.

What do you think?

(Thanks to Double AA for suggesting I post this.)

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    They are separate obligations. Maamar Toras HaBayis ch. 1. – b a Jun 10 '12 at 5:29
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    @b a Thank you. However, he does not prove (as in halachic proof) what he is saying there, or address the (what I think are straightforward) problems that I mentioned. Therefore unless you showed me further proof I would assume he is not speaking from a strict halachic standpoint as much as from a "what-is-your-life-worth-already-if-you-waste-your-time-and-don't-learn" standpoint. Which is of course valid. But it also means that strictly speaking there is technically only one halachic obligation. – Dov F Jun 10 '12 at 5:40
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    R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi, in his Hilchos Talmud Torah (3:4), seems to be saying that they are the same obligation - based, as you said, on והגית בו יומם ולילה - and that therefore, "in extreme circumstances, when one is extremely preoccupied and doesn't have free time to study even one chapter," then the morning and evening Kerias Shema are enough to fulfill that injunction. – Alex Jun 10 '12 at 6:33
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    @Alex, sounds like an answer. – msh210 Jun 10 '12 at 6:53
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    See this and the following responsa from R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi - hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=25077&pgnum=357 - , who talks about the difference between the obligation to learn day and night (which always applies), and the obligation to know Torah (which can be completed) and how that resolves a contradiction in two statements of Rashbi. The footnotes are a must. This is not directly addressing your question but may shed light upon it. – Menachem Jun 10 '12 at 20:59
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In the comments, commenters focused on the Shitah of the Shulchan Aruch Harav, which can be summarized as Kevias Ittim being the same as the Mitzvah of Vehagisa Bo, but there being an additional Mitzvah to know the entire Torah.

Truthfully, many of the Poskim seem to equate these Mitzvos (Kevias Ittim and Vehagisa), based on Shulchan Aruch YD 246:1.

כל איש ישראל חייב בתלמוד תורה, בין עני בין עשיר, בין שלם בגופו בין בעל יסורים, בין בחור בין זקן גדול. אפילו עני המחזר על הפתחים, אפילו בעל אשה ובנים, חייב לקבוע לו זמן לתלמוד תורה ביום ובלילה, שנאמר: והגית בו יומם ולילה (יהושע א, ח). רמא: ובשעת הדחק, אפילו לא קרא רק קריאת שמע שחרית וערבית, לא ימושו מפיך (ישעיהו נט, כא) קרינן ביה (הגהות מיימוני פ"א וסמ"ג עשין י"ב).

This is cleared up by the Gra (YD 246:4), who says specifically that the this discussion of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah relates directly to the question of Kavata Itim. This is also the simple assumption of many poskim (see Aruch Hashulchan YD 246:7 and compare to OC 156:2 as well). Note that the Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:8) learns the Chiyuv of Kevias Ittim from Vehagisa, which is the source of the Shulchan Aruch's Pesak.

One last point, however, is that the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 246:7 endnote) says a personal Chiddush that he thinks that the Gemara in Menachos refers to both a constant Chiyuv of Limud Hatorah, as well as Kevius Ittim (with the former applying only to learners, see OC 156:2), but the assumption is that Kerias Shema can technially cover both if such a Shas Hadechak arises.

In summary, the Mitzvah of Limud Hatorah that Shulchan Aruch (YD 246:1) quotes, based on the Rambam (TT 1:8) is the same as the Chiyuv to be Kovea Itim. Beshas Hadechak, according to Rema, this Mitzvah is covered by Keriyas Shema. The Aruch Hashulchan says a Chiddush whereby they are two separate Mitzvos, but would have little to no practical ramifications.

-- Somewhat related notes

Also, in a number of places, we see a single Passuk being required after Kerias Shema, which is based on that Rambam TT 1:8 (Lechem Mishneh there assumes that Rambam holds that Kerias Shema is not enough), however, Rema YD 246:1 does Pasken that Shema is enough.

The Chiyuv to learn Kol Hatorah Kulah may be additional to this or a specific part of this Mitzvah, see Igros Mosheh YD 4:37:3 for details on this Chiyuv. Please see comments to this answer as well.

I'm sure much has been written on this, and this is just a quick, simple overview, but if people have more substantial, specific answers, Mah Tov Umah Naim!

  • "Beshas Hadechak, according to Rema, this Mitzvah is covered by Keriyas Shema." Basically all Rishonim agree to that. Most don't say anything about dechak. – mevaqesh Dec 24 '17 at 3:00
  • "The Chiyuv to learn Kol Hatorah Kulah ." Other than the semag, do any Rishonim write such a thing? – mevaqesh Dec 24 '17 at 3:02
  • @mevaqesh Rema says Beshas Hadechak, we consider it "Lo Yamushu Mipicha", which I assume means that you are Yotzei the Chiyuv mentioned in Shulchan Aruch. I have not looked through the Rishonim to check which ones hold like this. Re: Chiyuv to learn Kol Hatorah Kulah, also didn't look through the Rishonim, I think R' Moshe (don't have access right now) learned it from Rambam TT 1:10, which actually seems like a very tough argument. Again, I didn't see a lot of Rishonim or even Acharonim on this one, but it comes from the story on Menachos 99b, (although "we don't pasken from Gemaros"). – רבות מחשבות Dec 24 '17 at 3:28
  • In reality, rambam just says that one must learn some Torah each day of his life. He never ever says one needs to learn kol hatorah kula. Rav moshe somewhat anachronisticaly pots a famous position of aharonim, stated by no rishonim, at most suggested in a weak form by the semag (see above link), into rambams mouth. Needing to always learn and being obligated to know kol hatorah kula; whatever that means, are clearly two different things. I never ceased to be amazed by people who cite menahot 99, as though that states an obligation of constant study, given that it is a mahaloket tannaim – mevaqesh Dec 24 '17 at 3:44
  • There and basically all Rishonim don't hold like rabbi yishmael. BTW most commentators of rambam don't learn like the LM and understand rambam to pasken like rabbi yohanan, if not like the even more minimalist rabbi shmuel bar nahmani. – mevaqesh Dec 24 '17 at 3:46

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