Is there a specifically "Chabad" way of learning Gemara? Is there a Chabad commentary on the Gemara?

6 Answers 6


There is a Chabad way of learning Gemara, as described by the Rebbe Rashab, the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe and founder of Yeshivat Tomchei Temimim. In his Kuntres Eitz Chayim, he explains why it is necessary to learn Chassidus in addition to learning Gemara properly. The entire text is available online in English.

From the introduction to the english translation:

There is, however, a possibility for negative consequences even within Torah study. Since the Torah is enclothed in worldly affairs and operates with the framework of human logic, it is possible that a person will look at it as no more than a system of wisdom, forgetting about G-d, the Giver of the Torah. When the Torah is studied with such an approach, it can become “a potion of death,” encouraging a person’s self-concern. Instead of serving as a tool to bring about the refinement of the world and the person studying, the study of the Torah can inflate the person’s ego and cause him to become more materially oriented.

For this reason, it is necessary for one’s Torah study to include P’nimiyus HaTorah, the inner, mystic dimensions of the Torah, which focuses attention directly on the Torah’s G-dly and spiritual core.

The second half of the Sefer discuss the practical way Gemara should be learned. I will quote the summation of the chapters here just to give you an idea of what it advises, but the whole things needs to be learned in full, to understand the Derech the Rebbe Rashab is recommending.

Chapter 27:

[This chapter] emphasizes that the ultimate purpose of knowledge is to know the concepts [as they truly are], and not to try to develop chiddushim, innovative explanations.

Chapter 28:

[This chapter] explains the manner of studying the Gemara, [Rashi’s] commentary, and Tosafos.

Chapter 29:

[This chapter] outlines a course of study for a person with a developed intellectual potential. [It] reaches the conclusion that a careful analysis of the wording used is more appropriate while studying the Mishnah. While studying the Gemara, by contrast, one should [focus more on] concentrated analysis of the subject matter.

[The chapter emphasizes the importance of] being both “sharp and questioning, and patient and seeking resolutions.” [It also speaks of the importance of] carefully studying the wording used by Rashi.

Chapter 30:

[This chapter] communicates the [proper] approach to study — [continuing] the previous explanations — with regard to [studying the works of] the halachic authorities.

Chapter 31:

[This chapter emphasizes that a student] should protect himself from empty and false pilpulim. A genuine pilpul is possible only after one achieves an ordered comprehension [of the subject].

Chapter 32:

[This chapter] enjoins to remove [all traces of] the undesirable approach to study, and [states] that the study of Chassidus will assist in this.

Also, in one of the introductions to the Shulchan Aruch Harav, written by the son and successor of the Alter Rebbe, the Mittler Rebbe, the recommended ways to learn Halacha is also described, with different levels of learning described depending on the amount of time one has each day to devote to the learning of Halacha. I wrote up the most extensive way here.

  • None of the links to the Rashab's essay work.
    – N.T.
    Oct 18, 2021 at 3:02
  • @N.T. I fixed them
    – shmosel
    Jun 7, 2023 at 19:17

Since no one seems to have answered the last question, namely, are there any Chabad commentaries on the Gemara....

There are many talks and writings from all the Lubavitcher Rebbeim on different topics in Gemara. As far as I know, there is no one systematic commentary on the Gemara, and as their discussions of Gemara topics are usually (though not always) in the context of their Chassidic teachings, they are usually published in their books on Chassidus and not by themselves.

However, there is an effort to compile these commentaries and print them in a new edition of the Vilna Shas. (Update: The first volume (Kiddushin) is out already.)

  • 4
    HodofHod, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for the excellent information! I look forward to seeing you around.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 14, 2011 at 1:14
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    @Isaac Moses, Thank you! Maybe I'll have more success here than on stackoverflow... :-D
    – HodofHod
    Sep 14, 2011 at 2:28
  • @tomsmith I don't understand, are you referring to sichos, hadronim, and maamorim that are published? Or reusing those arguments or methods elsewhere? You're comment is very confusing. If the Rebbeim learnt that way, and published it, those pilpulim, etc. are obviously for us to learn from
    – HodofHod
    Sep 23, 2011 at 20:13
  • Ahhh, while that may be true (who wrote that ha'arah?) I don't see how that pertains to my answer. (I don't presume that it is necessarily possible to write hadronim of the Rebbe's quality but as for style....)
    – HodofHod
    Sep 23, 2011 at 21:13
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    @HodofHod you seem to have more success here than on SO (a mod and everything) :) Jun 29, 2012 at 4:52

When a certain Chabad family in Detroit wanted to send their son to Rav Bakst's yeshiva, Rav Bakst felt that because of the derech halimud (style of learning) of what the boy had experienced in a previous Chabad yeshiva, which was more about learning up the texts (girsadige) he would not do well in his regular misnagdishe-litvishe yeshiva. The family did not accept Rav Bakst's opinion so he wrote his opinion to the Rebbe asking for his support in handling the parents. The Rebbe responded "Misnagdishe Rav, Don't you know that the correct way to be learning is girsadige?! After all... (and the Rebbe quoted the Gemara in Shabbos about one who did not forget his "girsa diyankasa"(literally: text of his youth)."

This seems to imply that at least at the high school level the Rebbe held that the correct approach was a more textual and less analytical approach.

As a post-script, Rav Bakst responded by writing to the Rebbe that the "Girsa" (text) referred to in that gemara is a sevara (theory, used in deeper analysis of the Gemara). The Rebbe never responded.

Heard from Rav Aryeh Leib Bakst ZT"L

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    That sounds like it may be consistent with the curriculum in Pikei Avot. Scripture from ages 5 - 10, Mishna 10 - 15, and "Gemara" (meaning analysis) only after 15. Personally, I found that my ability to appreciate and get into analyzing Gemara and commentaries didn't really kick in until around that age.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 22, 2010 at 14:50
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    Although I learned for some time by Rav Bakst and other Yeshivos that were really into "lomdus", between you, me, and the web, they were just fooling themselves. I always knew it and I used to say so, but it was like saying the emperor has no clothes. I was considered a bum or a maverick for not buying in to a system which is inherently intellectually dishonest. Hazal told us that we are not ready for heavy analysis until 15 years of age and that has not changed. (And that is only if the child has the prerequisite knowledge of Tanach and Mishna!)
    – Yahu
    Dec 22, 2010 at 18:50
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    There was a major disconnect between the European Roshei Yeshivos and the typical Yeshiva boy in which the RYs would think that the boys already worked out the basics and would shovel lomdus upon them to give them a "geshmak". What resulted was mass lomdus-shel-hevel, nothing was reliable or provable and therefore everything subject to revision and debate. Not a very stable way for a high school boy to be receiving Torah.
    – Yahu
    Dec 22, 2010 at 18:55
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    Regarding this issue, of high school learning, the Hasidim have always stressed a textual, pshat based approach with praise for review and finishing Masechtos. In this I am a Hasid.
    – Yahu
    Dec 22, 2010 at 18:58
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    Sounds like a good argument for carefully combining best practices from different traditions, which has some bearing on Desert Star's previous question.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 23, 2010 at 16:50

The Tzemach Tzedek (written by the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe) is often quoted in G'mara learning even in non-Chabad contexts and by non-Chabad subscribers.


The Rogatchover is the quintessential Chabad Gaon (of the Kapuster variety). He learned with R' Chaim under the Bais haLevi and then with R' Y.L. Diskin. I also knew of a Chassidishe Rav (non-chabad) who was a magid shiur at the chabad yeshiva (in Brooklyn). So apparently there is not a specific chabad mesora in learning.

  • @ShmuelBrin, Rav Pikarsky from Rego Park.
    – YDK
    Jun 29, 2012 at 1:46
  • the Rogatchover and chabad were on good terms (specifically the rebbe rashab and rebbe ryatz) and he is quoted by the Rebbe on at least a few occasions but he was never a "chabad gaon"
    – Dude
    Nov 1, 2016 at 17:13

As far as I know, this isn't the "official" chabad shita, and I don't think there is one. However, what follows is the way that I learned in lubavitch yeshivos, and heard from others that this the way they learn in lubavitch. It is also the style in which tzemach tzedek al hashas, (3rd lubavitcher rebbe's pirush on shas) and likutai sichos, ( 7th lubavitcher rebbe's talks which include gemorah ) are written.

It is a sugyah styled learning, that involves comparing meforshim, and very often trying to find a certain shita that many meforshim ascribe to. The method is by going a (logical) step deeper. It is a special kind of pilpul and therefore they learn a lot of "Rogotchover" which is written in this style.

This is in regards to iyun. However the girsa doesnt seem to be very uniform, although it seems that chabad tries to focus on a simple and clear understanding with speed optimization.

  • I would really like to contribute to this subject of how to learn but in a general way without bringing chabad into it. The main problem is, is that we just cant copy other gedolim who are on a much higher standard than us in how to learn. Therefore this whole post is meaningless.
    – user2800
    Aug 16, 2013 at 8:37
  • @annex well start a new thread then somewhere else and as i pointed out lubavitch does do this it is difficult but its done and when needed we look for help in seforim or those smarter then us Aug 16, 2013 at 8:41
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    This answer would be much more valuable if it was edited to be in clearer, more grammatically-correct, English.
    – Isaac Moses
    Aug 16, 2013 at 15:00
  • @IsaacMoses your free to edit it Aug 16, 2013 at 16:44
  • Done it but didnt go down well.
    – user2800
    Aug 16, 2013 at 17:12

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