If you can only choose one, which way should you learn, bekiyus (learning quickly on a more superficial level to cover ground) or beiyun (slower, more in depth study)?

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    Could you briefly explain what those options mean? – Monica Cellio Dec 4 '12 at 22:37
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    If you can only eat one of the ingredients in chocolate milk, should you have the chocolate or the milk? – Double AA Dec 5 '12 at 1:12
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    @DoubleAA the chocolate, of course! – not-allowed to change my name Dec 5 '12 at 10:42
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    @DoubleAA what does the milk chocolate correspond to? Is the milk the b'iyun and chocolate the bekius or the other way around? – Yehoshua Dec 5 '12 at 14:15
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    They don't correspond to anything. You need to learn both and one without the other is incomplete. End of story. – Double AA Dec 5 '12 at 17:15

The גמרא on :דף ה in חגיגה says:

תנו רבנן שלשה הקב"ה בוכה עליהן בכל יום על שאפשר לעסוק בתורה ואינו עוסק ועל שאי אפשר לעסוק בתורה ועוסק ועל פרנס המתגאה על הצבור

Hashem cries daily for 3 people: those who can learn and don't, those who can't learn and do, and a haughty community leader.

Rav Elyashiv explains (in the Sefer summarizing his shiurim):

  1. Those who can learn and don't: those who could learn b'Iyun and rather "do the Daf Yomi". Rather they should be learning in-depth instead of trying to cover ground.

  2. Those who can't learn and do: those who don't have the foundation to learn in-depth, as they have no gone over the Talmud even once, yet do so, thereby wasting their time.

  3. A haughty community leader: since the punishment for this person is that his children will be in the category of עם הארץ.

This then explains why the above section follows a discussion about ביטול תורה. If you're learning b'Iyun when you're still at the b'Kiyus stage, or vice-versa, you’re essentially doing ביטול תורה at some level.


The Gemara in Horiyos 14a queries which of these two people are better for the world. (See Tosafos Harosh there). So if you were one of the last learners in the Torah world and we were dependent on you, then this is Nogea. The Gemara says Rabbah was an Oiker Harim. Rashi explains he was sharp and made analytic arguments in learning. Rav Yosef however was known as Sinai. This is because he knew all the Torah like it was given from Sinai but couldnt debate an arguable matter as well as his contemporary could. The Gemara ends that a Sinai is better because in the end of the day we always fall back onto what was said at Sinai and so the gain of breadth of knowledge out-ways the benefits of an analytic brain.

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    No, the Gemara does not query this point. It asks if given two people, one who is a Sinai and one who is an Oker Harim, who do you give precedence to in terms of the honor due to a talmid chacham. – Double AA Dec 5 '12 at 17:54
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    Also it's not clear if this decision would apply today when all the breadth knowledge is pretty secure on papers and digitally, so perhaps it isn't as important to be in people's heads. – Double AA Dec 5 '12 at 17:55
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    @DoubleAA first of all the OP did not specify that he is asking for only our generation. Regarding your point of honor the Gemara is still Mashmah that we need one more then the other. I will update my answer to reflect this. – Yehuda Dec 5 '12 at 18:04
  • @DoubleAA It's not so important to be in peoples heads!? תנו רבנן ושננתם שיהו דברי תורה מחודדים בפיך שאם ישאל לך אדם דבר אל תגמגם ותאמר לו אלא אמור לו מיד – Yehoshua Dec 5 '12 at 21:04
  • @Yehoshua I didn't say "not so important" I said "not as important". Of course it's important. See my comments to the question where I point out that we need both Iyun and Bekiut. That is pashut. I'm just wondering whether this gemara's conclusion is still correct nowadays. – Double AA Dec 5 '12 at 21:15

There is a misconception in the question. This refers to a person who is capable of doing both what should he do. The gemoro c'subos 103b should be mentioned that rebbi considered R Chiya greater than R Chanina who could be termed 'oker horim'. R Chiya went and taught children different parts of the chumash and mishna and then told them to teach each other. Was there no one else who could do it except the great R Chiya who surely had better things to do. The answer is like I previously wrote, the first thing is to be capable of learning. For that one needs the best rebbe possible and only then can one transmit it further. To be able to learn properly is not an easy thing and takes years of experience. One has to learn the blat then look at the maharsha and ask oneself, now why didnt I think of that. So my answer to the above question is, first learn how to learn properly, and then ask the question again. I think by then you will know the answer yourself.


First of all, as the old story goes - the questioner should learn neither, he should learn Mussar. After learning Mussar properly, he/she will realize that there is time for both b'iyun and b'kius learning.

Based on the Bavli, Megilla 6b

ואמר ר׳ יצחק אם יאמר לך אדם יגעתי ולא מצאתי אל תאמן לא יגעתי ומצאתי אל תאמן יגעתי ומצאתי תאמן הני מילי בדברי תורה אבל במשא ומתן סייעתא הוא מן שמיא ולדברי תורה לא אמרן אלא לחדודי אבל לאוקמי גירסא סייעתא מן שמיא היא

Rav Yitzchak said, "If a person tells you, 'I have tried and not succeeded.' Don't believe him. 'I have not tried and I have succeeded.' Don't believe him. 'I have tried and succeeded.' Believe him. These statements are regarding Torah study, but regarding business he is helped from heaven. And regarding Torah learning this statement can only be said about learning which sharpens a person, but regarding memorization he is helped from heaven.

With this in mind, it would seem that one should engage in b'iyun learning as opposed to b'kius if one has to choose, because the results of b'iyun as a direct results of ones efforts, whereas the results of b'kius are not. Theoretically if one learn b'iyun his whole life he could both be sharpened and memorize everything, whereas if he only learned b'kius he would certainly never be sharpened and may not even memorize everything!

Inspired by this question.


אגרת לבן תורה (ר' יצחק בן ר"ע יוסף) והן אמת כי ראיתי להגאון מהר"ש קלוגר בהגהותיו לפרי מגדים א"ח אשל אברהם סו סימן קל"ו שהביא מה שכתב האליה רבה שם בשם שיורי כנסת הגדולה בסימן קל'ה הגה"ט אות ט' שתלמיד חכם בעל הוראה קודם לעלות לספר תורה לפני תלמיד חכם מפולפל שאינו בעל הוראה וכתב הפרי מגדים על זה דהיינו טעמא כמו שאמרו בהוריות יד דסיני ועוקר הרים סיני עדיף וכתב על זה הגרש"ק לדעתי אין ראיה מהש"ס שבזמנם לא היו ספרים נדפסים משום הכי סיני עדיף אבל עכשיו אחרי מיעוט חיפוש יכול האדם למצוא מבוקשו ולא שייך הטעם דהכל צריכים למרי חטייא לפיכך עוקר הרים עדיף מפני שהוא מוציא מלבו ואי אפשר למצוא ממילא ...

ובארחות צדיקים שער כז כתב והנה בדור הזה נשתכחה התורה כי הלומדים דימו עצמם להיות כמו בעלי התוס' והראשונים והחזיקו לימודם בפלפולים עד שמבטלים את רוב היום בפלפול ומבלבלים זה את זה ועיקר הלימוד שלהם נשאר עראי דעראי וביטול זמן הלימוד קבע והרי אמרו חז"ל שבת סג ליגמר איניש והדר ליסבר ואילו הם אינם עושים כן אלא רצונם ללמוד התוס' וכל התידושים וחידושי חידושים קודם שידעו צורתא דשמעתתא ואיך יצליחו בלימודם ועינינו הרואות כי מרוב טורח העיון והפלפול שנוהגים בו רבים פורשים לגמרי מן הלימוד כי ההלכה נעשית להם כמשא כבד לא כן הראשונים אשר תורתם היתה אומנותם והיו ממיתים עצמם עליה יומם ולילה ולבם היה פתוח כפתחו של אולם

מעשה איש (תולדות החזון איש): בנוגע ללימוד הלכות אבילות בימי האבל אמר גיסו מרן בעל קה"י זצ"ל משמו של רבינו שאי אפשר שיהא מותר ללמוד דוקא בלי עיון כי לימוד בלא עיון אינו לימוד [כלומר, אין האבל צריך היתר ללמוד בלי עיון, שהרי לימוד כזה אינו לימוד כלל, ובלא"ה מותר]

See also: דב רפל, ויכוח הפלפול for many sources on the topic.

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    It would help a lot of users if you translated this – Shmuel Mar 6 '13 at 5:11
  • This answer basically brings an argument to what is earlier mentioned in the comments that today we have printed seforim. – user2709 May 1 '13 at 8:28

I once asked Rav Mendel Weinbach zatza"l a similar question.

The question I asked was: say I have one slot of time available for learning. During that time, I could learn one daf gemara (a full folio, or both sides of the page) with just Rashi's commentary. Or, I could learn one amud (one side of the page) with Tosfos's commentary as well. What should I prefer?

Rav Weinbach answer was that it depended on what else I was learning. If I had time set aside as well for "iyun" (in-depth, analytical study) then this slot should be devoted to "covering more ground" and I should prefer the full daf with Rashi.

If this is the only time I have for Gemara study the entire day, then it's more important to prefer learning an amud with Tosfos.

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