Is every Jew who is capable of doing so, required to learn "kol ha'torah kula"? If yes, what would that include?

  • If yes, it would include whatever you have to learn. See: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/71125/8775. According to Semag one must study all 613 mitsvot on a rudimentary level. However, this does not appear to be the opinion of Rambam, Rif, Rosh, Tur, and the Shulhan Arukh.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 6:06
  • Although this is a dupe, why do you limit the question to every Jew who is capable of doing so. Mitsvot in general arent limited to those who can perform them. Rather, they are universally binding, and if an individual is incapable of fulfilling them, then he is considered anus.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 6:54
  • @mevaqesh "If yes, it would include whatever you have to learn."? I don't see why that's necessarily so. Maybe there's something I have to learn beyond "kol ha'torah kula" (whatever that is).
    – msh210
    Jan 10, 2017 at 12:06
  • @msh210 kol hatorah Kula isn't a term that carries a particular connotation in hazal or rishonim in the obligation of Torah study. However if you would introduce the term as everything that you must learn, then given that in this context it has no other meaning, the only meaning it have, is that which was assigned to it. Interestingly, when the term is used in early sources, it generally means the entire Pentateuch.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 15:15
  • judaism.stackexchange.com/a/69143/1012
    – wfb
    Jan 10, 2017 at 19:46

2 Answers 2


"You are not responsible to finish the work (Torah learning), yet you are not allowed to quit (learning) either." - R' Tarfon, Pirkei Avos 2:16

Since the Torah is the will and wisdom of Hashem, it has no end. So, you are not obligated to "finish" it. You must simply keep learning it. You shall toil in Torah learning day and night constantly. (See The Book of Joshuah 1:8)

So, by definition, Torah includes an infinite amount of wisdom, even though we have known categories to identify its contents, like: Written, Oral, Tanach, Shas, Medrash, Halachah, Hashkafa, Kabbalah, etc. You must simply accomplish as much as you can as often as you can.

The actual Mishnah quoted does not specifically say the "work" is "learning Torah. However, it can be readily seen from context that it is what R' Tarfon means. (There are many mefarshim that explain R' Tarfon's words this way; as specifically referring to the mitzvah of learning Torah.)

The very next words of R' Tarfon in the Mishnah say "..If you have learned much Torah...". This context tells us that the whole Mishnah refers to the mitzvah of learning Torah.

The Rambam in his Peirush HaMishnayos on Avos , The Tosfos Yom Tov, Rav Ovadiah MiBartenura, and the Meleches Shlomo, as well as the Maharal of Prague all interpret Rabbi Tarfon as describing the mitzvah of learning Torah.

The Rambam in the Yad HaChazakah, Laws of Talmud Torah (in Sefer Mada) 3:6 says about the mitzvah of learning Torah: "..you are not responsible to finish the work, but you may not stop from it...". This exactly echos R' Tarfon's wording.

A source in Gemara for this idea can be found in Menachos 99b; a few lines from the bottom of the page.

"The House of R' Yishmael taught: The words of Torah should not be upon you like an obligation, but you also may not exempt yourself from them either."

Rashi explains: "..Like a man who has a debt and says "Oh when will I be done with this debt?" So a man must not say: "I will learn one chapter and then have fulfilled the obligation." for you have no permission to exempt yourself from them (the words of Torah learning)."

Tosfos in his final explanation of the above words of R' Yishmael's House:

"You do not have to learn the whole Torah. - as it is taught already in the Mishnah (Avos 2:16) "You are not responsible to finish the work, but you may not quit either."

I hope this helps. :)

  • 2
    Hi, David. I think you may need to include / explain how the term melacha which means "work" translates to Torah learning, in this Mishnah. It is not obvious to me, and, I gather, would not be obvious to other readers, as well.
    – DanF
    Jan 10, 2017 at 14:54
  • The wording from that Mishnah is "Lo Alecha Hamelacha Ligmor", which I've always understood to mean something more along the lines of "It's not your responsibility to ensure that the 'melacha' is completed". That seems to have a different connotation than 'obligation', i.e. you are obligated to do as much as you can, but you're not held accountable if you can't finish. Jan 10, 2017 at 15:05
  • 1
    Do you have any halakhic sources about this, or are you ruling straight out of the mishna?
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 15:18
  • @Salmononius2 Sounds like fine semantics. If I make you responsible to complete a task, then you are obligated.
    – DanF
    Jan 10, 2017 at 18:15
  • To add to @DanF's fine point, Rabbenu Mattitya Hayitshari, is pretty clear in his commentary to Avot, that the statement in question does not refer to Torah study; let alone to an halakhic obligation!
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 19:56

In codifying the obligation to study Torah, Rambam never delineates any set components of Torah that a person must study (in the first chapter of Hilchot Talmud Torah, in the rest of that section, or anywhere else that I am aware of).

Accordingly, we can infer that there is no obligation to learn "kol haTorah kulah".

This inference is made by Heshy Zelcer as well:

Studying the entire Torah: Is there a requirement to study the entire Torah including the Written and Oral Law? Rambam clearly expects one to learn all of the Written and Oral Law early on in his learning process, but he does not seem to formalize this obligation.

Source: Ḥakirah (vol. 2 p. 125)

However, presumably Rambam would agree that one must learn practical halacha (something he places great emphasis on in numerous places, e.g Perush HaMishnayot to Niddah (6:15)), for otherwise, how would one know how to practice halacha.

The Semag, however, implies that besides for the obligation to learn practical halacha, there is an obligation to study each of the 613 mitzvot. In his introduction to the Positive Commandments in Semag, he writes:

כבר הקדמתי בספר מצות לא תעשה עניין ספר הזה כי הוא לידע יסוד המצות על פי הקבלה ולא [כל] חילוקיהם באורך ויש מצות שאין נוהגים לדורות ולא היו כי אם לפי שעה ואין ראוי למנותם כגון ברכות וקללות דהר גריזים והר עיבל וסיד אבנים גדולות ועשיית המשכן וכיוצא באלו:

ויש מהמון [ה]עם שאומרין מה לנו ולמצות סדר קדשים קל וחומר למצות סדר זרעים ולמצות סדר טהרות לדברים שאין נוהגין בזמן הזה, אל יאמר אדם כן כי המצות אשר צוה אדון העולם יש לידע יסודותיהם אף על פי שאינם צריכין עתה כי על כל המצות נצטוינו ולמדתם אותם (דברים יא, יט) ונאמר (דברים כז, א) שמור את כל המצוה אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם וגומר, ונאמר (ויקרא כב, לא) ושמרתם מצותי ועשיתם אותם...וכן אמרו רבותינו (תו"כ אמור פרק ט ה"ג) ושמרתם זו המשנה ועשיתם זו העשייה. ויש אדם שילמוד כל ימיו ולא יכול להשיג לדעת מצוה אחת כמאמרה בעל פה מחמת אורך הגמרא ופלפולה...

That is, there is an obligation to know the basics of all of the mitzvot - even the ones which may not apply to the learner.

It should be noted, that like Rambam, I am unaware of Rif, Rosh, Tur, the Shulhan Arukh, (or any other Rishon, for that matter) expressing the Semag's view; or delineating a particular corpus that a person is obligated to master.

Additionally, neither Rambam (Hilkhot Talmud Torah 1:1) nor Semag (Assei 12) obligate women in the study of Torah.

If you are interested in the term "kol haTorah kulah" note that in Hazal it often (always?) means the entire Pentateuch. See for example, the Sifrei to Devarim (Piska 1) that Moshe Rabbenu wrote "kol haTorah kulah"; i.e. the Pentateuch.

  • Rav Yaakov Weinberg learns the Rambam as defining an obligation on every Jew to complete the entire Written Torah. He explains his understanding of the Oral Torah obligation as well. It is worth hearing his precise reading of the Rambam: dropbox.com/s/ztbc3govcgayefc/…
    – Chaim
    Jan 10, 2017 at 20:41
  • That's a a lot to listen to just for a comment. I have found in the past that he seemed to bake several mistakes in this area, some based on faulty texts. If you are interested, you can post a question based on it, and I will try to find the time to review it and critique it.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:22
  • Thankfully it's for more than just a comment - it's a fresh understanding of the Rambam! Pretty sure he's reading from a Frankel Rambam; I'm not sure which faulty texts you're referring to. His understanding is based on the fact that Rambam obligates one to teach/pay to have taught to his son Torah, and one must teach themselves if their father didn't teach them. He understands that this must be a quantifiable amount if it is something which can be fulfilled as such. He makes a number of interesting points within the 33 minutes. The class was given at an AJOP convention.
    – Chaim
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:36
  • @Chaim I am currently very very busy. In one shiur I heard from him on the topic, he was very clearly not using a Frankel, (or Mori Qafih, or Mekhon Mamre, or R. Rabinovitch) Rambam. | As I said, hopefully I will have the time to listen to this shiur, but its probably not fresh considering I have already heard his take on it. | I am not super interested in engaging in a lengthy critique of his ideas here. The comment section isn't for that. That's why I recommended asking a separate question: e.g. "here is this interesting shiur. Are the ideas unanimous? Is there reason to doubt them?"
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:43
  • Alternatively, we can move it into a chat room.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 10, 2017 at 21:44

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