I have had many conversations with people who express a falling out of love with learning talmud as they got older. Perhaps it is due to being in the working world or having so many other responsibilities; whatever the case I would like to know if there are any strategies for helping a person, who is 30 years old or older, and who once enjoyed talmud study but doesn't any longer, once again enjoy learning gemarah? I am looking for sourced answers/approaches only please.
1You're more likely to get some decent answers if you remove the requirements for sources on such an ambiguous topic.– YehudaFeb 17, 2015 at 10:50
1Machonshilo.org– aviFeb 17, 2015 at 18:59
R. Shimon Fuerst wrote a pamphlet called Tenu Kavod LaTorah in which he discusses how Talmudic students should learn Gemara. His major thesis is that many students upon leaving yeshiva give up on learning Gemara because the style of learning promoted in yeshivos is not conducive to actually amassing a significant amount of Torah knowledge. He says that when these people realize that they were in yeshiva for 10 years and don't actually know much, and can hardly even "learn a daf Gemara b'peshitus" they simply give up. His solution is to revamp the way Gemara learning is done in yeshiva, with at least 100 (two-sided) pages studied per semester. When people see that they have acquired a significant amount of Torah knowledge they will continue to learn.
The pamphlet is only about 30 pages long and can easily be read in its entirety by someone familiar with Hebrew. Here is one excerpt (p.11) that is representative of the point:
והחילוק יהיה רק זאת שאותן מאה דפים ידעו היטב גם עם הראשונים עם הרשב"א והריטב"א וכשיבואו לביתם לבקש איזהו פרנסה אם גם לא יזכרו אלף דפים גמרא הדק היטב אבל ידיעת התורה בהרבה ענינים בש"ס יהיה להם בודאי ולא יפסוק מחמת זה החשק ללמוד להלן אחר שעזבו את דלתות הישיבה
ולא יהיה עוד כדבר הלזה שאנו רואין היום שאחר שלמדו עשרה שנים בישיבה לא ידעו ללמוד בעצמן דף גמרא וזאת רק זאת גרם שאינן פותחין עוד גמרא כל ימי חייהן שאינן מרגישיו שום חיות בלימוד גמרא והטעם מחמת שאינם יודעים מאומה
The difference will be only this – that those 100 pages they will know well, even with rishonim, with the Rashba and the Ritva, and when they come to their houses to seek out a livelihood even if they don't remember 1,000 pages of Gemara very well they will certainly at least have Torah knowledge in many topics in Shas, and they won't cease on account of this their desire to learn later on after they have left the doors of the yeshiva.
And there will no longer be something like this, where we see today that after learning for 10 years in yeshiva they don't know how to learn on their own a page of Gemara. This and only this causes them not to open a Gemara again for the rest of their lives, because they don't feel any vitality in learning Gemara, the reason being that they don't know anything.
R Yehuda Greenwald wrote a small booklet called "Torah study" under the direction of R Shlomo Wolbe (I have it in French, it is part of this larger book).
In it he writes that learning gemara should be the main focus of any Jew. However it is just as critical to learn Humash, Halakha, Hassidut and Musar - all in just proportions and depending on the individual. He recommends 50-60% of time dedicated to gemara, the rest to other disciplines. And insists on the importance of getting advice from a learned rav that knows the person well.
He explicitly discusses the case of many adults who get discouraged after a few years of learning gemara when they realize they won't become the talmidei chachamim they were hoping to be and don't actually enjoy the learning that much. He recommends avoiding to "take refuge" only in learning humash, hassidut and musar but believes a certain balance is important.
I also heard directly from R Levi Azimov (who oversees 120 batei Habad in the Paris area) that learning gemara only is too dry and that a Jew needs "something to warm his neshama in parallel" (his words), e.g., in-depth humash and hasidut.