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Why do we learn Gemara? We can't learn any Halacha from Gemara, as brought in Yalkut Yosef Halachot Talmud Torah. So why do we learn Gemara at all-it's more useful to learn Halacha!

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The last Maharsha on Sha"s explains that the reason the statement of "כל השונה הלכות בכל יום וכו" is cited at the end of Niddah (and after quoting the chumra of Rebbi Zeira in Megillah 27b) is because the chumra of Rebbi Zeira made much of hilchos Niddah obsolete. A person might think that, therefore, there is no more reason to learn maseches Niddah. Therefore this statement is brought to show that learning the halachos of meseches Niddah itself is what brings a person to Olam Habah. (The Maharsha there explains how he knows this statement of learning halachos refers to halachos of Niddah which were made obsolete by Rebbi Zeira's stringency.) There is an intrinsic value to learning Torah.

R' Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe Orech Chaim 1:20 explains that this was the mistake of the generation in which the Mikdash was destroyed - they did not make a blessing on learning Torah (Eicha Rabba) - which means they did not relate to learning Torah as a mitzvah in its own right, but only as a means to knowing what to do. They failed to see the intrinsic value in learning Torah.

On a separate note, when I was in Ner Israel, my Rebbe was often asked why we don't learn things that are practical. He explained that if you are learning Gemara and it doesn't become practical, you aren't learning it correctly. If you think learning Gemara is one discussion, and learning the halacha is a separate discussion, you haven't learned either properly. You cannot fully appreciate the Rambam, or Shulchan Aruch, or wherever your halacha is coming from, if you do not know the ins and outs of the sugya in the Gemara. Learning Gemara is a necessary step in learning the halacha, and just perusing the Mishna Berura does not give you a true understanding of the subject at hand.

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    In Avos we find the requirement to learn Mishna before Gemara. Mishna, as it does all over Shaas, means piskei halachos. When you ask the average person learning gemara why he doesn't learn halacha he responds' I'm not planning on being a Rabbi'. Liheipuch! The 'average' person needs to learn halacha to stay out of gehinom, its onlythe Rabbis, or advadvanced students, who should be learning gemara in order to be meivin davar mitoch davar in order to pasken. – user6591 Sep 14 '14 at 19:31
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    If you have access to Rav Soloveitchik's Community Covenant and Commitment, see letter 11. Written in 1955, its practically prophetic in its description of the post Lithuanian type Yeshiva system that will not have prepared the average person for a life of Torah observance for want of having learned anything practical but instead focused on the elite students and their interests. The Rambam also wrote the Yad to spare people from having to learn Gemara. – user6591 Sep 14 '14 at 19:38
  • @user6591 I think there are several points that could be disputed in your comments, but at the end of the day גברא אגברא קרמית - I don't know why you think the sources I have quoted are invalid in the face of yours. – Y     e     z Sep 14 '14 at 20:15
  • I often hear of these yeshiva bochrim who are adrift without a clue if pork is allowed or Shabbos is on Tuesday. I have never met any of them. I know some who aren't sure if they should follow the Chazon Ish or R' Aharon Kotler if draining from a ladle is borrer. But I wouldn't call that not being prepared for life. My chaveirim in Yeshiva all knew the basics of halacha, through osmosis, despite the "curse" of learning Gemara. They were only better off for it, because they appreciated the nuances of halacha. – Y     e     z Sep 14 '14 at 20:25
  • I am sure there are Yeshivos where students don't take it seriously enough and end up ignorant. I don't think you would fix them by giving them Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Forst sefarim to sit in front of. But if you walk into the Mir or Brisk, you won't find a big crowd of עמי הארץ. You will probably find a crowd much more educated than you are used to. – Y     e     z Sep 14 '14 at 20:32
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In truth you can't necessarily pasken directly from Halacha seforim either. Paskening directly from how you understand the Mishna, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch or Ramo, and really any such terse statements, has long been warned against (the Mishna is warned against in the Gemara itself, and the exact parameters of the problem learning the Rambam, etc. directly is a discussion in Rishonim, with disagreements about it).

The necessity of learning Gemara is to understand the source of the Halacha in order to understand its applicability to new situations. Without going back to and understanding the source, you cannot properly and clearly understand the Halacha in Halachic seforim, by and large, and you certainly cannot apply it to new situations correctly.

This is explained in the introduction to Shulchan Aruch HaRav by the author's son, in the Kuntres Achron to Hilchos Talmud Torah Chapter 2, among other sources.

  • By Halacha, I meant modern poskim, like the Yalkut Yosef or the Mishnah Berura. – 147zcbm Feb 11 '15 at 16:45
  • @147zcbm, You still can't pasken a Halacha to a new case if all you have learned are those two. And you can't necessarily pasken from them either (CYLOR). – Yishai Feb 11 '15 at 16:48

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