What is the definition of the word "Talmud" used by Chazal in the expression talmud Torah?

Does it mean learning Torah, or teaching Torah?

I seem to remember this discussed in an article (perhaps on the Seforim Blog) which presented various views of the Rishonim on the topic.

Accepted answer to anyone who can either find the article, or clear proof from Rishonim on the matter.

  • BTW I consider Rambam's statement in Sefer Hamitvos to make the question more confusing; not less. Best look elsewhere.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 18:10
  • similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/4886/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 0:57
  • 1
    almost dupe judaism.stackexchange.com/q/8025/759 It seems to be coming out of Piel (look at other parallel forms (ex תשלום תנחום) which derive from Piel verbs שילם ניחם) and hence would be closer to teaching than learning.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 17:55
  • @DoubleAA my formal knowledge of grammar is limited. If you wouldnt mind elaborating somewhat on the link I would greatly appreciate it. thanks.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 1:00

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure if this is the original article you were reading, but he cites Ramba"m and Talmud Kiddushin (no pun, but "Talmud" here has a different definition). It seems that "Talmud" means "learning" and not "teaching".

אין לך מצוה בכל המצות כולן שהיא שקולה כנגד תלמוד תורה אלא תלמוד תורה כנגד כל המצות כולן שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה, לפיכך התלמוד קודם למעשה בכל מקום. (הלכות תלמוד תורה ג:ג)

My translation (I am intentionally not translating the term Talmud Torah, here, as it is not apparent, yet what the translation really is :

There is no mitzvah that is equal to Talmud Torah. Rather Talmud Torah is equal to all the other mitzvoth, for Talmud leads to performing. therefore, the Talmud precedes performing in every situation.

(See the linked article that resolves a contradictory statement that Ramba"m makes.)

In his introduction to the Commentary to the Mishnah (pp. 22 – 23), Rambam writes (excerpted):

. ולכן תמצא המצוה בכל התורה, ולמדתם ואחר כך לעשותם, התלמוד קודם למעשה, כי בתלמוד יבוא לידי מעשה ואין המעשה מביא לידי תלמוד, וזהו אמרם ע"ה שהתלמוד מביא לידי מעשה

My translation (Here, I will translate Talmud Torah, as it seems quiet clear what it means based on the Torah term that he is using.)

Therefore, you will find this mitzvah stated everywhere in the Torah in the format, "You shall learn them" and then it says, "Do them". The learning precedes the doing. Because learning will lead to doing and not doing leads to learning.

One of many examples from the Torah regarding the order of the primciple Ramba"m states ולמדתם ואחר כך לעשותם is

Deuteronomy 5:1:

וַיִּקְרָ֣א מֹשֶׁה֮ אֶל־כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֗ם שְׁמַ֤ע יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֶת־הַחֻקִּ֣ים וְאֶת־הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י דֹּבֵ֥ר בְּאָזְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם וּלְמַדְתֶּ֣ם אֹתָ֔ם וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם לַעֲשֹׂתָֽם׃

And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them: Hear, Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that you may learn them, and observe to do them.

See also a cross ref to beginning of Sefer Hachinuch 419:1 who cites this verse, among others. He says that there is a mitzvah to both learn AND teach/ But it is obvious that you can't relay the info to your children unless you have learned it yourself, first.

  • shouldnt it be called limud torah?
    – ray
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 21:17
  • 1
    @ray That's a good point. Offhand, I think that "limud" connotes an active verb form where as "Talmud" might be a noun. I may be off on this idea, so correct me, if I am.
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 21:35
  • 1
    Obviously you have no way of intuiting which article I read, but this was not it. Therefore, credit will be assigned if proofs from Rishonim are valid. First proof: failure. All we know is that Talmud leads to act; this could mean that teaching facilitates performance (on the part of the student). Intro. to Mishna commentary: a translation itself, so probably worthless for our purposes. You agree Chinich isnt a proof. For another reason why it is not a proof, see my comments to user613's answer. BTW thanks for the article though.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 22:31
  • @mevaqesh I tried... I think that the latter part of showing the verse would suffice as proof of the meaning. I guess ut doesn't meet your standard.
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 3:09
  • 1
    @DanF You didn't quote Mishne Torah. You quoted his Commentary to the Mishna which was written in Arabic.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 18:11

It means both learning and teaching.

Sefer Hachinuch

תיט. מצות תלמוד תורה. מצות עשה ללמד חכמת התורה וללמדה...

419. The commandment of Talmud Torah It's a positive commandment to learn the wisdom of Torah and teach it...

Sefer Hamitzvos of the Rambam

והמצוה הי"א היא שצונו ללמוד חכמת התורה וללמדה וזה הוא שנקרא תלמוד תורה והוא אמרו ושננתם לבניך. ולשון ספרי לבניך אלו תלמידיך וכן אתה מוצא בכל מקום שהתלמידים קרוים בנים שנאמר ויצאו בני הנביאים. (ספר המצות מ"ע יא)

And the 11th Mitzvah is that we're commanded to learn the wisdom of the Torah and to teach it, and this is what's called Talmud Torah... (11th positive commandment)

Please click the link below

Google books screenshot

This is the link where the screenshot is taken from

  • Just realised now that you commented on your question that you don't want from sefer hamitzvos as it makes it confusing. I'm not sure what you mean by that. Either way, the answer only needs to satisfy the question, not the comments, so this is a valid answer
    – user613
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 22:10
  • Sorry this doesnt prove anything. The mitzva colloquially known as talmud torah includes both learning and teaching, but the intent of the word talmud is not clarified by the sefer hachinuch. The Rambam is similarly (and more so) ambiguous. The link is irrelevant as it only includes the Chinich and Rambam which as noted define the mitzvah not the word. I (genuinely) appreciate your efforts, but given that as explained this does not answer the question, perhaps deletion, until further research would be the bet bet.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 22:21
  • Aren't you, essentially restating / rephrasing my answer?
    – DanF
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 22:22
  • @DanF I don't think so. You didn't quote the sefer hamitzvos. Also, when you quoted the sefer Hachinuch, you just mentioned that there's a Mitzvah to learn and teach, you didn't mention that they're both Talmud Torah. Our answers are similar, but I still think they're different. I still think yours is valid, I upvoted it.
    – user613
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 3:13
  • @mevaqesh "What is the definition of the word "Talmud" used byChazal in the expression talmud Torah?" When do chazal use Talmud Torah but not taking about the Mitzvah? What would they be talking about? Either way, I don't think the best bet is to delete it, as it answers the question in my opinion. When you don't like an answer, you're meant to downvote it, as I think you did; not suggest to delete it.
    – user613
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 3:19

You must log in to answer this question.

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