Looking to teach a total beginner (i.e. someone not yet interested in following any halachas) college student for kiruv purposes. What is the best part of torah to teach first?

Is it better (for kiruv purposes) to teach inspirational agadah or grind away some Gemorah, or perhaps tanach with Malbim?

i.e. what is the ideal subject to teach for kiruv purposes, assuming the person is ready to learn anything.


3 Answers 3


I agree with sanders that day-to-day practical halacha should be the "default" starting point. But I would expand that thought: each person is different, each kiruv situation is different, and the best starting point is the one that will engage that particular person at that particular time. As it says in Mishlei 22:6, "Train a child according to his way ..." (h/t @IsaacMoses).

For some that way will be the basic b'rachot of daily living. For some it will be saying and starting to understand the sh'ma daily. For some it will be torah study with a good chumash. For some it will be communal ritual like the Pesach seder. For some it will center on their children.

You need to evaluate each situation -- ask probing questions, pay attention to how the person responds as you proceed, and adjust course as necessary. I've found the questions that people ask can be illuminating, revealing either an area of interest to explore or a misconception to address.

Per Avodah Zara 19a, a person can only learn Torah properly when he is learning a topic that interests him at the time (h/t @Fred). Find that topic and proceed.

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    Avoda Zara 19a: "א"ר אין אדם לומד תורה אלא ממקום שלבו חפץ שנאמר (תהלים א, ב) כי אם בתורת ה' חפצו". Paraphrased: Rabbi said that a person can only learn Torah properly when he is learning a topic that interests him at the time.
    – Fred
    Nov 4, 2013 at 17:12
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    @Fred thanks! I've incorporated that into the answer. Nov 4, 2013 at 18:11
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    @ray, I think you're missing the point of this answer. What's successful for some may not be successful for others. This answer is written for an individual would-be mekarev, who has the advantage of being able to (and therefore, says this answer, best-advised to) tailor the program of study to the individual student - an option not available in the same way to an institution.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 4, 2013 at 21:04
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    @ray, the question described what sounded like a one-on-one relationship, which is why I ansered this way. It also sounds like your college student might not be ready to go off and enroll in a yeshiva like Ohr Somayach. Have I misunderstood the question? Nov 4, 2013 at 21:31
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    @ray, you have an answer here that has experience along with a pasuk and Chazal backing it up. Ashrecha.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 5, 2013 at 6:36

I think it is critical not just to pick something the student would like, but to pick something which you truly are excited about - this way, when you teach, you can give over the that extra joy of learning your favorite subject, which is a very important motivational device as well...

In terms of fitting the student, for the thinking type, I generally prefer the chumash. It is a good area where you can bring in philosophy and drush to show many layers of meaning in the text. The idea of a multi-layered text is critical to learning any area of Jewish life, be it gemara or halacha with arguing opinions, or mussar with interpretation of life on multiple layers, or even the art of living a life balancing all different kinds of responsibilities, each of which can be loosely interpreted as a layer of meaning in the life of a person. For me this is the most effective way of showing depth, which the thinking type usually reacts very well to.


The best thing is to start with day to day practical things. For example הלכה. These are things which are important every day.

Along the line you could start with other things like פרשת השבוע or משנה


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