Poroshas beĥukosai begins with the words אם בחוקותי תלכו which rashi, somewhat famously explains, based on toras kohanim that this means 'if we will be עמלים בתורה'.

This is a commonly quoted rashi in many a mashigach's schmooze. I personally have heard this used to refer to gemara b'iyun, constantly thinking about Torah and amount of time spent learning amongst other thing which I can't remember at the moment. There are many aspects of Torah learning to which this phrase could refer.

So my question is what exactly is the toras kohanim's intent when it refers to עמלות בתורה? I don't want to hear what some recent mashgiach said. I'd prefer early sources, I.e. ראשונים but am willing to hear about anything pre-1750 that may be of interest.

  • 3
    Why do you assume it refers to a specific type of learning? All Rashi says is to toil in Torah - that could be true of any type of Torah.
    – DonielF
    May 14, 2017 at 13:15
  • @DonielF but what does 'toiling in Torah' mean? I didn't ask what limmud you should do... I said that this might be a possible answer as to what it means but my question is what ameilus means. May 14, 2017 at 14:12
  • While I am unable to answer the question directly, I find it intriguing to point out that quoting Rashi may not be entirely fair. This is because Rashi's approach, known as Pirush Rashi, primarily consists of a basic line-by-line commentary, aimed at providing a clear understanding of the text. In contrast, it is the Baalei HaTosfos who adopt a more intricate and analytical approach. While both approaches hold significant value, it is hard to perceive that Rashi was referring to the Derech of Iyun as we currently understand it. May 18, 2023 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


Based on Minchas Asher Sichos to Bechukosai

What עמילות בתורה means can be better understood from the following​ sources:

ירושלמי פאה ג, שביעית ב:, שבת י"א. וכתובות נ"א.

אימתי היא חייכם, בזמן שאתם יגעים בה

When is it your life? When you toil in it

שבת פ"ח ע"ב

דברי תורה יש בהם כדי להמית ולהחיות היינו דאמר רבא למיימינים בה סמא דחיי למשמאלים בה סמא שמותר

Words of Torah have within them the power to kill and to sustain. This is like what Rava said: To those who go right with it, it's an elixir of life. To those who go to the left with it, it's an elixir of death

Rashi there explains:

למיימינין בה, עסוקים בכל כחם, וטרודים לדעת סודה

Minchas Asher understands Rashi is saying there's two types of עמל בתורה:

עמל הגוף and עמל השכל. Toil of the body and toil of the intellect.

The Ran in נדרים ח ע"א writes that the source of the obligation to learn בכל כחו is ושננתם לבניך, that חז"ל in קידושין ל ע"א say means שיהיו דברי תורה מחודדים בפיך. Rashi there writes חזור עליהם, ובדוק לעומקן. Review them and search them to their depth

Minchas Asher understands that the two forms of שיננתם לבניך in Rashi correspond to the two types of עמל בתורה

חזור עליהן - עסוקים בכל כחם. Review - toil with all of your might

ובדוק לעומקן - טרודים לדעת סודה. Search - be concerned to know their secrets

He brings a proof that the main form of עמל בתורה is חזרה from the תוספתא פרה פ"ד ה"ד

שהיה ר' יהושע אומר השונה ואינו עמל כאיש שזרוע ואינו קוצר

Rabbi Yehoshua used to say: one who learns and doesn't toil is like one who plants and doesn't harvest

What does עמל mean here? We see from סנהדרין צ"ט ע"א

הלומד תורה ואינו חוזר עליה הזורע ואינו קוצר

Someone who learns and doesn't review it, is like one who plants and doesn't harvest

  • How does the part before the piece where he discusses chazarah answer the question?
    – DonielF
    May 14, 2017 at 13:21
  • First part says the two types of עמילות: physical and intellectual. Second part is what style of learning to focus on
    – robev
    May 14, 2017 at 13:28
  • He asked what type of learning to focus on. How does the first part address that?
    – DonielF
    May 14, 2017 at 13:28
  • 1
    "So my question is what exactly is the toras kohanim's intent when it refers to עמלות בתורה"
    – robev
    May 14, 2017 at 13:30

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