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There is a mitzvah to toil in Torah study. See Rashi Vayikra 26:3:

אם בחקתי תלכו. יָכוֹל זֶה קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת, כְּשֶׁהוּא אוֹמֵר וְאֶת מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִיתֶם אֹתָם הֲרֵי קִיּוּם הַמִּצְוֹת אָמוּר, הָא מַה אֲנִי מְקַיֵּם אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ? שֶׁתִּהְיוּ עֲמֵלִים בַּתּוֹרָה (ספרא):

‎אם בחקתי תלכו IF YE WALK IN MY ORDINANCES — One might think that this denotes the fulfilment of the commandments; but when Scripture states “and ye shall keep My commandments and do them”, it is plain that in this passage there is mentioned the “fulfilment of the commands”. How then must I explain אם בחקתי תלכו? As an admonition that you should study the Torah laboriously (Sifra, Bechukotai, Section 1 1-2

If one is studying and comes across a source quoted. And he has the choice to either google or look up the source on a computer program/look at an index, something that could take mere seconds, or he can find the actual physical source, tracking it down till he finds it - an endeavor that could take possibly hours. Which is better? Is this called יגיעה בתורה?

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    I like this question - thoughtful! I don't think "effort" is measured quantitatively in this case. I think the quality of learning is more important. If you follow the adage that the main purpose of learning is so that you can perform, (See Pirkei Avot among other places that emphasize this), then, I would say that when you're learning, efficiency counts the most. I.e., I would think that you should favor using the web, assuming that will give you the answer that you need. The problem, of course, is that, often, it doesn't. But, you should use the most efficient method. – DanF May 16 '17 at 14:07
  • @DanF interesting idea. Perhaps you should build on it as an answer – Shoel U'Meishiv May 16 '17 at 14:13
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    @DanF If that's the case, why should anybody learn gemara ever? Just read a Shulchan Arukh + Mishnah Brurah to get the halakha so you know how to perform the mitzvot. Why subject yourself to the inefficient process of learning the gemara? – Daniel May 16 '17 at 14:33
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    @Daniel You raised an interesting point. OP answered his own question, and it is pretty much on the point I was trying to describe. My comment was referring to the effort expended related to your current studying, of course. If studying gemarrah, and I don't know a word definition, it makes sense to use the web to get my answer then hunting down various books to do that job. Similarly, if I have a simple halachic question, by all means, use Shulchan Aruch to get the answer instead of pounding through a long gemarrah sugya. – DanF May 16 '17 at 15:04
  • Whats with the commentless downvote? – Shoel U'Meishiv May 16 '17 at 15:38
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In his approbation (Picture Below) to the index to Shas: "HaMafteach", Rav Mordechai Willig praising the concept of an encyclopedia to Shas, quotes the Chazon Ish saying: "That which we call חיפוש - that the searching itself after a source is יגיעה (toil and effort in Torah) is a corruption of the concept of יגיעה and עמילות בתורה.

Rav Yitzchak Hutner in the forward to אוצר מפרשי התלמוד (ב״מ ח״ב)‏ echoes this Chazon Ish as well.

Seemingly according to them, if one could find the source in a more efficient manner, one should use a program/index to find the source. Rather than expend a lot of time just finding the source.

  • If you can link that 1st source, that would be great. Chazon Ish made a great careful distinction that makes a lot of sense. One wonder that I have with the yeshiva system is that in studying Gemara in elementary & High School, many rebbes expose students to a vast array of mefarshim. This is nice if you really want to get different opinions. But, it often overwhelms the young students w/ so much info, that they forget the main subject and its purpose. IMO, that's not only inefficient - it defeats the purpose of learning the subject to begin with. This is a subject that I should research more. – DanF May 16 '17 at 15:10
  • @DanF Yeshiva high schools are very different in their desired goal. They want to expose to the student the concept. It's not too actually teach the materiel persay. They'll get the materiel later. – Shoel U'Meishiv May 16 '17 at 15:26
  • Understood. I just question the point to it. And, a number of notable educators in yeshivot have agreed with my question. It's debatable. – DanF May 16 '17 at 15:34
  • @DanF yes it's debatable – Shoel U'Meishiv May 16 '17 at 15:35
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    @ShoelU'Meishiv -- if you get the chance, could you please transcribe or summarize the picture you included in your post? This will improve your answer for readers who use assistive technologies. – Shokhet May 16 '17 at 19:34
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Regarding the question that seems to lie at the core of the question; is there benefit (not necessarily actual mitsvah, since we probably arent discussing one) in making Torah study more difficult than it has to be. Even if there is, one could still wonder whether or not in a given case, the benefit outweighs the loss.

Although intuitively, I would strongly assume that there is no benefit in making study artificially difficult, there are some sources that indicate the opposite.

Regarding walking to praying in a more distant place, the Talmud (Bava Metsiah 107a) cites R. Yohanan as opining that one is fortunate to have a nearby bathroom, but not a nearby synagogue, since one receives reward for going to a further synagogue. Although he just says that one is fortunate if circumstances leave him in a position where he is forced to walk a greater distance; not that given the choice one should actually walk further.

However, the Talmud (Sotah 22a) cites an anecdote (apparently approvingly) of someone doing just that; deliberately praying in a further location. Although this is about extra effort expended on prayer, rather than study, it provides some theoretical background for the idea that study too benefits from artificial attempts at making it more difficult.

Rashi there (s.v. v'kibbul) summarises the upshot of that passage as:

למדנו שיטריח אדם עצמו במצוה לקבל שכר יותר.

Which seems to say that there is value in doing a mitsvah in a more difficult way. This would presumably include Torah study.

Indeed, referring to Torah study in particular, R. Yeshaya di Trani writes in his Tosafot to Megillah 3a, that the problem with translating Prophets into the vernacular was that it would allow people to learn it without expending as much effort. This would seem to indicate that it is preferable to study Torah in a more difficult manner, even if one would be able to otherwise more easily (he says nothing, for example, about a decreased quality in the study).

Accordingly, according to the above, it would seem likely that there would be a benefit, even to the point if being preferable, in finding information in a more difficult way, rather than in an easier way.


Regarding whether this Midrash reflects a formal mitsvah with formal parameters, or a mere exhortation, note that the classical monei hamitsvot such as Rassag, Rambam, Ramban, Yereim, Semag, Semak, Hinnukh, and R. Yeroham Fischel Perlow, do not discuss it as even a possible mitsva. Accordingly, it would likely not necessarily have technical parameters and guidelines like an actual mitsvah. Either way, all of the above stands regarding preferences in Torah study options.

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Looking up a text on Google or a computer program will usually return the search result very quickly. In terms of efficiency, that is valuable.

If one thinks of toiling in Torah as ones occupation like is found in Shabbat 11a, then doing so is like running an efficient business. The profit margin is high when the expenditure is efficient. Efficient use of time means potentially more of every hour spent has profit.

On the flip side, when actually going through seforim, one usually sees along the way, other commentaries on the same subject, the context of surrounding material and possible additional references for even deeper understanding that would be missed with the Google search. Although not as efficient in terms of time usage, the return can be much greater. It's like refining ore. The process of refinement is much more thorough so more gold is refined per ton of ore.

Each method is beneficial in its own way. But success in either path is often dependent upon the inherent nature of the individual applying it. Certain individuals are better adapted at one style over the other. So the better choice depends on the capability of that particular individual.

In the final analysis, based upon the concept that כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה as found in ספרא בחוקותי פרק ז, ה, the full benefits of both individual styles are maintained through the unity of the Jewish people.

  • Thank you. Do you have any sources that prove that עמילות is efficient with results? – Shoel U'Meishiv May 16 '17 at 14:57
  • Your 3rd paragraph provides an angle that contrasts with my comment in response to OP's answer (see above.) You can comment on that, if you wish. Keep in mind, that the focus in my comment was primarily for young boys who are, for the most part, "beginners". – DanF May 16 '17 at 15:14
  • @ShoelU'Meishiv I believe the usage of "עֲמֵלִים" in the Sifra you quote is a noun. That we will be 'workers' or 'laborers' in regard to Torah. That puts the discussion in the context of a business venture. Business, in general, is about profit, loss, return on investment and rate of return. – Yaacov Deane May 16 '17 at 16:20

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