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I've been to a lot of Chabad shiurim and have been getting this message that Chesed is the most important thing to do. We are here to do chesed to one another..

but in the morning prayers i feel we say its talmud torah that is most important we say; that in this world we eat the fruits of study of torah, and in the next world, we benefit from performing deeds of kindness, (...) and the study of Torah is keneged culam.

Is it even possible to study Torah and to not have one's heart open more and more?

So hypothetically, if say I had only one hour a week of free time, should I study Torah or go do some charity work (or other forms of chesed)?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. I really like this "essential" question. There is a general Judaic principle that equates to "actions speak louder than words". So, offhand, I would say that the performance of Chessed seems more important. However, to know what to do and how to do it, one needs to study Torah. I'll see if I can compose a more thorough answer to this. "Is it even possible to study Torah and to not have one's heart open more and more?" Of course it's possible. Look how many learned misers there are in this world! It shouldn't be that way, but the reality is that it is. – DanF Dec 12 '17 at 16:32
  • The general rule is that Torah is preferable unless there is a task that won't be performed by someone else. Less clear is the degree to which a need must fall into one's lap, and the degree to which one must pursue it over Torah study. – mevaqesh Dec 12 '17 at 16:37
  • I sense that you are seeking a "quantifying" answer. Maybe, that's a wrong assumption. See Pirkei Avot 2:9 with the adage that states that anyone whose wisdom is less than his deeds does not have his wisdom established. See Tosfot Yom Tov's explanation, there. It seems that overall, one should be acting more than learning. – DanF Dec 12 '17 at 17:07
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The importance of studying Torah is well documented, see e.g., here.

Now R Moshe Feinstein wrote that one should donate 10% of one's time to the service of worthy causes. If you take this literally, you would learn Torah for 90% of your free time and do chesed with the other 10%. You might find his "call to action" interesting reading.

This being said, see this on taking "studying Torah is more important than anything else" with a grain of salt.

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    One point I have seen is that like giving tzedakah, the more one does, the more one finds that he can do. – sabbahillel Dec 12 '17 at 19:40
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There's a famous story related to Honoring one's parents (Seder Hadorot 3, [here][1]) about R' Yehoshua Ben Elem that was shown (from above) that he's sharing a place in Olam Habah with a simple butcher.

When I was in the Ohr Sameach Yeshiva I asked a Rabbi, the whole current Torah World is built around producing Talmidei Chachamim as R' Yehshua, but nobody's trying to educate such butchers. I did not receive an answer.

You are absolutely right, noticing, that the Torah does not order the Mitzvot by value (as in Avot "אי אתה יודע שכרן של מצוות") and the Sages usually only emphasize a single Mitzva (Shabbat, studying, Gma"H, and same for negative Mitzvot - mkurder, idolatry, Z"l etc) instead of building a clear hierarchy. This was a real mystery for me until I met my Rabbi some 10 years later. Now I know two ways to resolve this contradiction:

1. Litvakes vs Chassidishers approach

The difference in the two approaches comes from what Rashi (based on ויק"ר ל"ו) brings on the first word in the Torah "בשביל תורה שנקראת ראשית ובשביל ישראל שנקראו ראשית". Those are the two complementary purposes of this world - one is the goal of learning the Torah and the second of "becoming a good Jew" so to speak. Traditionally, despite of many rabbinical stories, the first approach took precedence, implying that studying Torah will ultimately lead to the second goal also. This is the Litvakes approach, currently de-facto standard of the Orthodox Judaism. Important to note, that the highest rank here would be a Gaon, that know all the Torah by heart.

The Chassidishers approach is based on the Mishna in Berachot (5, 1) "חסידים הראשונים היו שוהין שעה אחת", so the Gemorah asks about spending 9 hours a day in prayers - and it seems to be fine with this way of serving Hashem. Indeed, the Chassidut (based on the Talmud and then AriZ"l and then Baash"t) sees any Mitzvah being properly intended and fulfilled as a legitimate way of connecting to Hashem. The purpose of this approach is to turn oneself from physical to spiritual, and therefore, the highest rank here is Kadosh.

To sum it up: according to Litvakes, Torah study is the ultimate time-spending, according to Chassidim - any Mitzva (especial physical ones) with proper intention is as good as studying the Torah.

NB: Please notice, that the current Chassidim, especially in Israel are greatly influenced by the Litvakes!

2. Ariz"l's approach (not necessary, sources needed)

I can't pinpoint where he brings it, but he speaks about everyone fulfilling his own goal as set by Hashem. We can learn it from "יש הקונה את עולמו בשעה אחת" (see Avodah Zara 17 on) - some people reached their high by performing only one Mitzvah, being the essence of their life. Tsis approach is very problematic as nobody is revealed his purpose in life. Many Poskim discussed this point (sources needed) offering some guidelines, for example overcoming the most difficult personal behavior (based on "לפום צערא אגרא") or the opposite - following own best personal traits.

According to this approach, we can choose certain Mitzvot to excel in, based on personal preferences, be it studying Torah, Gma"H, prayers, Maaser or withholding from overriding ones.

[1] http://www.ateret4u.com/online/f_01816.html

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    the Torah does not order the Mitzvot by value (as in Avot "אי אתה יודע שכרן של מצוות") That is an oversimplification of passage in Avot; after all, the preceding words encourage care with both minor mitsvot and major mitsvot, implying that not all mitsvot are equal. (See judaism.stackexchange.com/a/80952/8775). As noted there, according to the Akedah, the point is that one shouldn't shun minor mitsvot, since we cant even fathom their reward; not that we don't know which are major and which are minor. Rambam gives a different explanation, but nevertheless discusses the [cont.] – mevaqesh Dec 17 '17 at 0:41
  • hierarchy of mitsvot at length. – mevaqesh Dec 17 '17 at 0:41
  • and the Sages usually only emphasize a single Mitzva (Shabbat, studying, Gma"H, and same for negative Mitzvot - mkurder, idolatry, Z"l etc) instead of building a clear hierarchy Just because they don't detail a hierarchy systematically, doesn't mean they didn't think there was one. They also don't list Jewish beliefs systematically like the Geonim and Rishonim, but they still maintained that Judaism has beliefs. They also don't address morality systematically, but still held of morality. – mevaqesh Dec 17 '17 at 0:47
  • Now I know two ways to resolve this contradiction: Which contradiction? This is unclear. – mevaqesh Dec 17 '17 at 0:47
  • the two approaches comes from what Rashi (based on ויק"ר ל"ו) brings on the first word in the Torah No it doesn't. The approach you attribute to Litvaks comes from sources such as תלמוד תורה כנגד כלם, and the halakha about not stoping Torah study for mitsvot which can be done by others. It doesn't stem from a seemingly unrelated questionable Midrash. – mevaqesh Dec 17 '17 at 0:50

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