The Talmud (Sanhedrin 99a) asserts that "anyone who learns Torah but does not review is considered like one who sows seeds but does not harvest his crop."

Does this mean that a person will not receive any reward for torah that he forgot if he was negligent to review it?

(please provide a source besides the famous one in the shulchan aruch harav)

  • 2
    whats the famous source in Shulchan Aruch HaRav? Jan 11, 2015 at 2:02
  • @IshPloniViKohen says there in hilchot talmud torah somewhere that one should learn the whole torah once even if he forgets for he will be reminded upstairs. was looking for other views on this.
    – ray
    Jan 11, 2015 at 6:07
  • @ray, what does that SAH have to do with your question, which is about reward?
    – msh210
    Jan 11, 2015 at 15:05
  • @msh210 I think "receive any reward" should be interpreted as "have any value", as the title implies. And @ ray, there is a letter in Igros R'iya in which Rav Kook reprimands his brother to review the whole chapter of g'mara he had learned ten times from start to finish or it would be as if he had never learned it. I don't have a copy handy.
    – WAF
    Jan 11, 2015 at 15:31
  • I don't remember which gemarah but it says that you get reward for walking to the shiur and for the uncomfortable-ness experienced at the shiur (if it's crowded). I think this only applies to someone going to hear words of Torah, nit sure about learning oneself.
    – Gavriel
    Jan 11, 2015 at 20:29

3 Answers 3


It's hard to imagine any mitzvah not being rewarded; after all, it's still a mitzvah! The source that you've quoted probably just means that his learning will not 'bear fruit' in that his learning won't be useful to him later when he needs to know what to do, and he won't be able to develop his Torah knowledge properly either. After all, the Gemara also says (Avodah Zarah 19a): אמר רבא לעולם ליגריס איניש ואף על גב דמשכח - a person should always learn even if he will forget. There are even some opinions that state (rather remarkably, I think) that one should even make birkas haTorah on something that he doesn't understand at all (Maharal in Gevuros Hashem ch. 62), which indicates that the mitzvah of learning Torah is not dependent on knowing what one has learned.

Perhaps a more explicit source is the Mishnah in Avos 5:13, "ממהר לשמוע וממהר לאבד יצא שכרו בהפסדו", implying that one quickly forgets his learning 'has lost his reward'. However, Rabbeinu Yonah writes on that Mishnah:

ההפסד מרובה אחר ששוכח תלמודו, ומה תועלת לענין הידיעה כי מהרה מבין הדברים, כי הכל ישכח מלבו. ועם כל זה לא ירפה ידיו מללמוד ששכר יש לו מחמת הטורח, כי עושה מלאכת ה' כל היום

...he does receive reward for his toil, for he's busy with the work of God

Even if a person forgets due to negligence, it's probable that he still wouldn't lose the reward for doing the mitzvah in the first place. The Mishnah discussing forgetting one's learning (Avos 3:8 and Menachos 99b) writes that only if one 'actively removes them from his memory' does he violate the prohibition of פן תשכח את הדברים, and while I'm not really sure what that means, I doubt it refers to mere negligence (though the first half of that Misnah might indicate otherwise, so מהא ליכא למשמע מינה).

However, there is a source to the contrary: Rashi to Brachos 6b. He writes

עיקר קבול שכר הבריות הרצים לשמוע דרשה מפי חכם היא שכר המרוצה שהרי רובם אינם מבינים להעמיד גרסא ולומר שמועה מפי רבן לאחר זמן שיקבלו שכר למוד

The primary reward received by those who run to hear the hear a [Torah] lecture from the scholar is the reward that they receive for running there, because most of them do not understand [the lecture well enough] to recall it and say what they heard from the teacher after some time, that they would receive reward for learning

Rashi indicates that the only way to receive reward for learning Torah is if one remembers it well enough to have total recall after time has passed. However, the Maharsha (there) argues on Rashi's understanding of this Gemara

  • 1
    thanks matt. i was asking more on the reward for talmud torah specifically. maybe i should add this comment to the question judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/52515/…
    – ray
    Jan 15, 2015 at 7:03
  • 1
    @ray this answer is only about talmud Torah. I don't understand what you mean Jan 15, 2015 at 7:05
  • meaning not whether it is a mitzva but whether it is the mitzva of talmud torah
    – ray
    Jan 15, 2015 at 19:19
  • 1
    @ray I still don't understand. Of course the mitzvah being done is the one of talmud Torah. What else could it be? Jan 15, 2015 at 19:20
  • 1
    could be for "busying oneself with the work of God" as R.Yona says, no?
    – ray
    Jan 15, 2015 at 19:40

See the introduction to the Minchat Elazar. There he discusses the concept of forgetfulness and proves that it is part of nature. For example, an old man who has forgotten his Torah (זקן ששכח תלמודו) is still to be shown respect, which would not be the case if his forgetting was due to negligence.

It seems to me that the same would apply to the value/reward of what was learned and forgotten.

The Minchat Elazar posits very interesting idea that there are two types of Torah study - "regular" study which can be forgotten, and that which is taught, which will not be forgotten. He learns this from the medrash relating that when Moshe Rabeinu was first taught the Torah he kept forgetting. Only when G-d gave him the Torah as a gift and he gave it over to בני ישראל did he stop forgetting.

בתחלה הי׳ משה למד תורה ומשכחה עד שניתנה לו במתנה

משס נהג נה טובת עין ונתנה לישראל ועליו הכתוב אומר טוב עין הוא יבורך

He includes publishing Torah in the latter category.


In defining the commandment to learn / teach Torah, although Rambam encurages one to retain his learning (e.g. Hil. Talmud Torah 1:12), he doesn't mention memory as an integral component of the mitzva. As such, one would presumably receive reward even if he forgot. (SHM Assei 11; Hil. Talmud Torah).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .