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What is the meaning of "k'neged kullam"? The Talmud says:

"אֵלּוּ דְבָרִים שֶׁאָדָם אוֹכֵל פֵּרוֹתֵיהֶן בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְהַקֶּרֶן קַיֶּמֶת לוֹ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. כִּבּוּד אָב וָאֵם, וּגְמִילוּת חֲסָדִים, וַהֲבָאַת שָׁלוֹם בֵּין אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ, וְתַלְמוּד תּוֹרָה כְּנֶגֶד כֻּלָּם: "

These are the things for which a person enjoys the fruits in this world, while the principal remains intact for him in the world to come: honoring one's father and mother, acts of loving kindness, and bringing peace between people. And the study of Torah "k’neged kulam". [Peah 1:1]

[These are the things] for which ["interest"] punishment is exacted in this world, while the principal punishment remains intact for him in the World to Come: Idolatry, sexual immorality, and murder. And Lashon Hara' (malicious gossip) "k’neged kulam". [Peah 8a]

Literally, does it mean: (1) is equal to them all put together, or (2) is equal to each of them taken separately?

Figuratively, what does it mean?

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  • See this blog post by R' Slifkin and the antecedent posts linked there.
    – Isaac Moses
    Nov 27, 2018 at 17:14
  • It means one should learn Torah and not speak L"H. Isn't it clear?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 27, 2018 at 17:52
  • Literally it means equal to all of them put together, similar to Avot 2:9.
    – shmosel
    May 4, 2023 at 8:33

3 Answers 3

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  1. Talmud Torah leads to [observing of] all of the above and therefore "equals" to them all. Also (Kabbalistically) all Mitzvos can be "equally" performed by studying them in Torah (בשורש).

  2. Similarly, Lashon Harah [can] leads to bigger and more severe transgressions because of those who say L"H pay no attention to the assault and offense of others.

I doubt the explanation of equalling the reward/punishment as seemingly for rewards we hold that "לפום צערא אגרא" and for punishments see Rambam's Hilchot Teshuva.

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  • שערי תשובה בתחילתו "וביטול תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם"
    – kouty
    Nov 27, 2018 at 17:49
  • @kouty וכל הכועס כאילו עע"ז...
    – Al Berko
    Nov 27, 2018 at 17:51
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    @kouty Don't try to save words, you can be easily misunderstood
    – Al Berko
    Nov 27, 2018 at 17:53
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Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (The Rav Thinking Aloud p.69) says this Mishnah means that Torah study leads to mitzvos, not that it is greater than them. He says action is ikur.

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The Alshich HaKadosh explains this in his commentary on Shir HaShirim. He states that when a person performs a mitzva, the source of that mitzva becomes activated and is filled with light, which also lights up a person's neshama, all the way down to his soul on earth, and even his body. The more kavana he has, the more light. However, Torah study creates a might greater spiritual light compared to the performance of any other mitzva. To explain this, he gives a mashal.

Torah study, and mitzvot, can be compared to a tree trunk and its branches. The branches get their nourishment from the trunk, and the trunks gets its nourishment from the soil, via its roots. So too, the light of a mitzva gets its has its source in the Torah, which embraces all the mitzvot. When one improves the tree's condition, the branches also gain. Similarly, when one studies Torah, he brings light to the branches (i.e. the mitzvot) as well. However, if one simply tends to a single branch of the tree, only that branch benefits, not the rest of the tree. Remember, the mitzvot get their light from the Torah, but just that branch is lit up in that case.

The Alshich then goes on to explain how this is not just talking about studying the secrets of Torah, but even the simple meaning lights up the whole tree. The best way is to study the simple meaning, but have the symbolic, homiletic and hidden meanings in mind, as well as channel the words through the prophets and writings, and they will bring a very great light into the world.

The goal of all Torah is for Hashem to become known1. Studying the Torah, His revelation, and which encompasses the knowledge all of His Mitzvot (and studying them is equal to performing them on many levels2), is the best way to get to know Him, and produces more light in this regard than the performance of an individual mitzva.*

*Of course, other answers have pointed out how studying a mitzva is not a total replacement for performing them, and in a very important respect, the action is greater than the study3. This is just a side point because we are comparing like for like here, the performance of the "study of Torah" mitzva vs. the rest.


1 - e.g. אתה הראת לדעת in davening
2 - I will look up the source for this shortly
3 - המעשה הוא העיקר

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  • I'll note that light = clarity. It's a catch-all term (there are lots of different types of clarity, and lots of things to clarify) for spiritual clarity. Knowledge of Hashem becomes clear to us through our understanding of Torah and our performance of mitzvot.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 4, 2023 at 13:14

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