Many Rabbis from our forefathers to Moses to Tannayim are said to "know the Whole Torah" (כל התורה כולה).

This is very unusual, as in other realms we usually don't say that about other people "he knew the whole physics/all about physics" or "he knew all about carpentry".

If not allegorically (simply being very wise), what could this phrase mean:

  • Does it mean the Torah's finite and they mastered it all?
  • Does it mean they knew everything a human can know?
  • Does it mean they knew some basic rules and principles rather than Halachic details?
  • 1
    Citing those sources (and how you know it’s an allegory) would vastly improve your question. Possibly related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/2203 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/66296 judaism.stackexchange.com/q/69136
    – msh210
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 6:52
  • what is wrong with the simple meaning
    – patient
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 10:18
  • I'm a Ba'al Kri'ah (Torah reader.) I don't know the entire Torah by heart. But, particularly, during a shiur, people call on me because they say "I know the Torah" meaning two things - If you quote me part of a pasuk, I usually know how to end it and I almost always know where the pasuk is located.
    – DanF
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 17:44
  • I actually meant Moses and Sages. I need to clarify the q.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 18:17
  • I've observed that as time elapsed the term's connotation typically expanded. Originally it could have referred to the Bible (when there was only the written Bible and oral torah; OTOH I don't recall its usage at that nascent period); then it included all beraitot (halachic & midrashic); then mishnah and then both Talmudim. Although I have seen later rabbis and authors include books that have become "classics" (e.g. Maimonides' Mishneh Torah).
    – Oliver
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi writes in Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:1:

וכל מי שדעתו וכח זכרונו יפה שיוכל ללמוד ולזכור כל התורה שבעל פה כולה הרי זה <(א)> לא ישא אשה עד שילמוד תחלה תורה שבעל פה כולה שהן כל ההלכות בטעמיהן בדרך קצרה שהן פירוש כל התרי"ג מצות בתנאיהן ודקדוקיהן ודקדוקי סופרים

Anyone who is smart and has a good memory that he can remember the whole Oral Torah he should not get married until he learns the whole Oral Torah which is All the Halachas with their reasoning in short, which is the explanation of all 613 commandments and their details, and the details of the Rabbinic [commandments]

In Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:1, he explains:

לפיכך חייב הוא לשלש זמן למידתו שבכל יום ויום שליש במקרא שליש במשנה שהן הלכות פסוקות בלי טעמים שבכל המשניות וברייתות ומימרות האמוראים שהן פירוש התרי"ג מצות שבתורה בכל תנאיהם ודקדוקיהם ודקדוקי סופרים ובזמן הזה גם הלכות פסוקות של פסקי הגאונים הפוסקים כמו הטור והשלחן ערוך והגהותיו בכלל משנה יחשבו ושליש בתלמוד המבאר טעמי ההלכות שבמשניות וברייתות ומימרות האמוראים ובזמן הזה גם בספרי הפוסקים הראשונים המבארים טעמי ההלכות פסוקות שפסקו הטור ושלחן ערוך כמו הרא"ש ובית יוסף.

כי אם אינו יודע טעמי ההלכות אינו מבין גופי ההלכות לאשורן על בוריין ונקרא בור ולכן יש אוסרין להורות אפילו לעצמו מתוך הלכות פסוקות בלי טעמים שלמד ולפיכך אינו רשאי להתאחר מללמוד הטעמים עד שיגמור ללמוד כל ההלכות פסוקות.

Therefore, one has to divide his day into three portions: One to learn the written [Torah], one third to learn the Pesk Halacha without reasoning, such as the Mishna, Beraisas, and teachings of the Amoraim, which are the explanation of the 613 commandments with all their details, including Rabbinic [laws], and nowadays the rulings of the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and the Ramah are considered as Mishna, and [the other] third part is "Talmud", which explains the Pesak of the Shulchan Aruch, such as the Rosh and the Beis Yosef.

This is since one who doesn't know the reasons for the Halachos doesn't really know them well and is considered to be a boor, and is forbidden to rule from books (even for oneself) without knowing the reasons. For this reason, one isn't allowed to postpone learning these reasons until one finishes learning the simple Halacha.

(Emphasis mine).

So it seems that there is some kind of limit of "The whole Torah", which tends to grow in time (First just the Mishna and Beraisa, then it included the teachings of the Amoraim, then it included the teachings of the Gaonim...)

  • THank you, does he refer to his Aruch Hashulchan? So, acc. to this view, itis finite, limited to A"H. One who knows it by heart knows the whole ORAL Torah.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 22:59
  • @AlBerko If you’re referring to the Alter Rebbe’s update on the code of Jewish law, it’s called Shulchan Aruch HaRav. In our generation, it would be included. And for that matter, the Aruch HaShulchan by Rabbi Yechiel Epstein too. Additionally, the Alter Rebbe says each individual is obligated to learn all the kabbalistic and chassidic texts as part of studying Talmud. From the 2nd sentence of your comment on, is incorrect as you wrote it. It’s unclear what you are trying to say. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 23:19
  • It looks like you are skipping around in Hilchot Talmud Torah in sections dealing with different subjects. Chapter 2 that you’re quoting is dealing with someone who received no Jewish education as a child. It’s addressing how, as an adult they are to approach learning. Chapter 3 is dealing with an entirely different subject. They are not one continuous idea. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 23:26

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