Rambam writes in Hil. Talmud Torah (1:7) that one must pay to teach his son the entire written Torah.

וְחַיָּב לְלַמְּדוֹ בְּשָׂכָר עַד שֶׁיִּקְרָא תּוֹרָה שֶׁבִּכְתָב כֻּלָּהּ

Kessef Mishna (and others) understand that this is the only thing one must teach his son in accordance with the ruling of the Gemara (Kiddushin 30a).

כסף משנה: היה מנהג המדינה וכו'. (פ"ק דקדושין) [פ''ד דנדרים דף ל''ז] ומשמע לי דמכאן ואילך אין חייב ללמדו אפילו בחנם

Rambam writes in Sefer HaMitzvos (assei 11) that teaching and studying is considered one commandment of "v'shinantam l'vanecha".

היא שצונו ללמוד תורה וללמדה

Does he hold that the Biblical obligation to study Torah also only includes the Written Law?

Maharam Shik (quoted in Sefer HaMafteach) notes that given that the obligations to teach a son and a student are included as a single mitzva, one ought to be exempt from teaching the Oral Law to students, but he inst happy with that conclusion and he doesnt discuss ones personal obligation

I know that he writes (e.g. Hil. Talmud Torah 1:12) that one should divide his study and include the Oral Law in his study. I am also aware of what he writes in (1:10). The question is just whether study of the Oral Law fulfills the Biblical obligation. Bonus points for the views of other Rishonim (such as the Ramah quoted in the Tur)


2 Answers 2


Rambam tangentially discusses this in his commentary to Avos 1:16 when discussing the five categories of speech.

החלק הראשון והוא המצווה בו הוא קריאת התורה ולמודה והעיון בפירושה וזו מצות עשה שנצטוינו בה ודברת בם והיא כמו כל המצות

Rambam here seems to be stating that study of the Oral Law ("והעיון בפירושה") is included in the Biblical commandment of "ודברת בם".

Note that the above is the translation of R. Yosef Qafih. In the Ibn Tibbon translation "והעיון בפירושה" is replaced with "וקריאת תלמודה" which is perhaps even more explicit. R. Qafih, in his footnote, points out this alternate translation and says that it is "אינו רחוק מן האמת".

Whether Rambam was referring to the Talmud as we know it, or something else, he apparently considered at least some form of the Oral Law as included in the Biblical Commandment of Torah study.


There are three general categories of understanding this Rambam.

  1. The obligation to teach one's child is limited to Torah SheBeksav (note, if there is a Rabbinic requirement to do it, the Rambam doesn't mention it according to that reading).

  2. The father's obligation to pay is limited to Torah SheBeksav, he just has to teach himself (or arrange others to teach) Torah SheBaal Peh for free.

  3. The father's obligation includes Torah SheBaal Peh, and to pay for it as well.

For #1, you (possibly - see further on) have the Kesef Mishna, and I guess the Maharam Shik (I haven't seen it). The Beiras Hamayim prefers to say that the Kesef Mishna means like Rashi, that for Torah SheBaal Peh, the son is expected to go learn on his own. So the father isn't obligated, rather the son is now old enough to do it himself (see further on the Shulchan Aruch HaRav who asks the obvious question on such a reading - nothing was written in those days, so how could he learn it himself?).

For #2, The Beiras Hamayim says one possibility is the Kesef Mishna means that the father can teach his son himself Torah SheBaal Peh, so there is no obligation to find another teacher (unlike Torah SheBeksav where there is a Takkana to establish a school - I think that is what he means), but he prefers #1. The Bigdei Yesha quotes the Tur and the Lechem Mishna as saying that the father is obligated to arrange that the son learn Torah SheBaal Peh for free. The Divrei Yirmiyahu kind of splits the difference and says the Kesef Mishna means the father is obligated for free, but the son doesn't have a particular category here, he is just like any other person. Note that the author of the Kesef Mishna paskens like #2 in the Shulchan Aruch (as understood by the Yemei Shlomo and others) and the Meshares Moshe says that he (R. Yosef Karo) changed his mind and does not stand by the statement in the Kesef Mishna.

For #3, you have the Shulchan Aruch HaRav, the Emuna VeTorah which quotes the SAH, the Avodas HaMelech (who also quotes the SAH in developing his opinion), but he limits it that for Torah SheBaal Peh a father can't be forced by Beis Din to pay.

(If I dare express an opinion after such a list of people, the Mechon Mamre breakup of the Rambam's words here seem to strongly support #3).

  • This is very nice, but completely misses the point of the question. The question was, assuming like the many nossei kelim who assume that Rambam is paskening like the simple reading of the Gemara in kiddushin (I wont get into why the diyuk in Rashi is not only wrong, but irrelevant) that one is only obligated to teach the Written Law, (at least Biblically), what are the implications for his view on the obligation to study Torah, given that the obligations to learn and teach constitute a single mitzva of V'shinantem. I am only asking according to these views. Nowhere do you address the
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:22
  • obligation to study. So no with no ill-feelings I request that you move these mar'eh mekomos to a question which they are relevant to, and edit or delete the answer here. Thanks.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:24
  • 1
    @mevaqesh, something about your question needs clarification, then. The question asks according to the Rambam. You don't mean that. You mean according to one interpretation of the Rambam (and why not add Rashi then?). So why the divergence into other Rishonim's opinions at the end? Re study, only a subset of #1 that would entertain the idea that you would not be obligated to study biblicaly, and as I noted if the obligation to study (which you acknowledged as existing in the question) is rabbinic and not biblical, the Rambam doesn't make the distinction, which may or may not be significant.
    – Yishai
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 17:48

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