י״ז בתשרי ה׳תשע״ג (October 3, 2012)

Berakhot 63a-b: Learning Alone

The Gemara on today’s daf describes a gathering of in Kerem B’Yavneh – “The vineyard of Yavneh” – which served as the seat of the . On this occasion, a number of different Sages offered homilies in honor of the Torah.

One of the ideas that was shared was that Torah study “is only acquired through study in a group.” Furthermore, based on a passage in Sefer Yirmiyahu (50:6), the Gemara concludes that a curse was placed on scholars who sit alone and study Torah who ultimately grow foolish because of their solitary study.

In his Ein Ayah, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook explains that the Holy Torah is a Torah of life. It does not guide its followers towards a life of asceticism or a rejection of the wholesome pleasures of the world that can raise the spirits of an individual. Therefore, the Torah anticipates that those who walk in its path will be members of a community, whose support and encouragement will help facilitate their spiritual growth and development. Moreover, an essential aspect of a Torah scholar is the role that he plays in improving the world around him. To accomplish this, the scholar must develop an appreciation for opinions that are at variance with his own, both in the realm of halakhah and in the realm of ethics. That kind of openness comes about only by means of group study, in the course of which one becomes accustomed to hearing opinions that are different from his own. When one chooses to limit debate and to remain secluded within his own closed community, he is unable to learn the ideas and thoughts of his peers and will consequently be unwilling to accept dissenting positions. Isolation inevitably leads to intractable disagreements and, ultimately, to bitter fights and arguments.

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