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New York - Learning Torah On Tisha B'Av if You Don't Enjoy It: A Halachic Analysis

Published on: July 19, 2010 10:49 AM
By: VIN News By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
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Photo illustration learning on Tisha Ba'vPhoto illustration learning on Tisha Ba'v

New York - It may seem like a bizarre question, but it has relevance to the upcoming Tisha B’Av holiday.  Do your children like to learn Torah?  If they don’t like learning - then they may learn Torah on Tisha B’Av according to the Biur Halacha’s explanation of the TaZ (OC 554:1).  The only thing is that a Rebbe would not be permitted to teach them – since the Rebbe enjoys learning himself.

If the child does enjoy learning, however, then he would be forbidden to learn on Tisha B’Av as well – even if he were to be learning by himself.

Not everyone, of course agrees with this explanation, of course.  The Magen Avrohom and Bach both hold that all Jewish children like to learn, and that the prohibition of learning Torah on this day applies equally to children.  The Biur Halacha explains that even according to the TaZ’s opinion – the permission would only apply to children younger than twelve.  The Biur Halacha holds that all twelve year old children and up do have a pleasure in studying Torah.

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This halachic debate between the TaZ (and the Eliyahu Rabbah) versus his father-in-law, the Bach (and Mogen Avrohom) seems fascinating.  How could it be that they approach the issue so differently?  Also, what are the factors that would cause a child to like learning or hate learning?  And, perhaps more pertinent, is there something that we can do about it?

Let’s first analyze the TaZ’s position.  Notwithstanding the wording of the TaZ itself, it is clear that he cannot mean that no child has joy learning Torah.  We see many children that obviously do enjoy it.  Rav Moshe Feinstein too (Igros Moshe YD 1:224) understands the TaZ in such a manner.  It must be, therefore, that the intent of the TaZ is that, at least in his time and place, the majority of children did not enjoy learning.  In the Bach’s world, however, the opposite seemed to be the case.  What perhaps were those differences?

Perhaps it can be suggested that the differences were in the approach to teaching that existed in the particular times and places where each of these Achronim lived.

We know that there is a general Yetzer HaRah that all people have against thinking – against using our brains.  However, when we do use our minds, and we do so with success – then we actually do enjoy thinking.  When we do not meet with success – we generally continue to dislike the thinking process.
Let’s take, for example, Sudoku puzzles and crossword puzzles.  Airport shops generally sell these puzzle books.  Yet we never find booklets that give us Algebra or Geometry puzzles.  Why is this so? 

The answer, of course, is that these books would not be popular.  They would not sell.  If they would sell – there is no question that the Airport shops would be marketing them.  So what is it about Sudoku and crossword puzzles that make them sell? 

The answer is that both of these types of puzzles have mini-successes built into them.  These successes make people feel good about solving them – they make them feel good about the thinking processes involved.  Indeed, they build on each success.  In Sudoku, once one number is solved it helps solve the other numbers.  Then one feels good about having solved a whole row or column, or even a box.  The same is true with the crossword puzzles.

This, of course, is not to suggest that we should change our time-tested methods of instruction to become more like Sudoku – chas veShalom.  No – this was merely an exploration of what makes people want to learn.  It is an attempt to isolate what the exact factors are that cause children to want to learn and what are the factors that cause them to dislike learning.

One can suggest that when a Rebbe is aware that a child needs mini- bite size successes in his learning – the child likes to think.  When a Rebbe just lectures straight and does not have an interactive session with his students – then they do not experience the pleasurable part of thinking.  They will therefore hate learning. 

There are also other issues that contribute to whether a child likes learning or dislikes it.  One young man observed that a Rebbe would often call a student a negative nickname “Hobbit-bobbit” because he would also read secular books.  When a Rebbe calls a student a nick-name it creates a feeling of negativity.  The student associates the negativity with the Rebbe, and hence with the learning.  This is not something that would have a positive effect on the student or the other students in the class either.

It would also behoove the Rebbe to begin each lesson with some positive motivitating device.  This could be in the form of an intriguing question or story, or any association of the material to be presented with something contemporary or catchy.  Often it may be difficult to come up with something, but this should be part of the Rebbe’s preparation.

Another thing that can be done is to create some change in the instruction.  Sitting in the same spot the entire time may not be so conducive to capturing the child’s attention.  Knowing when to stand up at key times may be an art form in and of itself. 

No one is immune from the lure of what exists in modern times, from iPods to Cell phones to an entire host of new technologies – there is no question that the distractions do take away our children from the love of learning that existed in the times of the Mogen Avrohom and the Bach.

What we must do then, and what we can learn from these halachos of Tisha B’Av is to figure out the factors that in the past contributed to the love that the Talmidim of the past had for learning.  There were clearly times in our history where we made mistakes and did not perfect these teaching methods.  But there were also times when we did.  We must look for it.  Isolate it.  And replicate it.  For the sake of our children.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com 



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Read Comments (20)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM power up Says:

Toras hashem meshivas nofesh,even thou the gif doesent feel it the neshuma feels it, and it makes happy the neshuma because the torah is food for the neshuma, and that's enough reason why we can't learn.
We need to be disturbed by the churben

2

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:29 AM David Says:

What if I like fasting and hate fancy, traif food? Can I spend Tisha b'Av at a French restaurant?

3

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:30 AM David Says:

Reply to #1  
power up Says:

Toras hashem meshivas nofesh,even thou the gif doesent feel it the neshuma feels it, and it makes happy the neshuma because the torah is food for the neshuma, and that's enough reason why we can't learn.
We need to be disturbed by the churben

A bit presumptuous of you-- is it not?-- to tell other people what their "neshumas" feel or don't feel?

4

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:37 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #1  
power up Says:

Toras hashem meshivas nofesh,even thou the gif doesent feel it the neshuma feels it, and it makes happy the neshuma because the torah is food for the neshuma, and that's enough reason why we can't learn.
We need to be disturbed by the churben

At some point, this arcane and tortured debate become self-destructive. Its NEVER wrong to study toras moshe, whether it brings joy or sadness or both. Using tisha b'aav as an excuse for bitul torah is a sham.

5

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:41 AM rotzer Says:

learning torah when you dont like it period, not oly on fast days if a person realizes that when learning something does not make sense for instance grownup ben torahs who are crooks or in jail gives an example that torah is not the answer to all our ills whats the answer to that? all our live we are duped into beleiving that if we learn torah then all our needs and wants will be fulfilled thats an outright faleshood that is being perpetrated on children who dont know better what a shame

6

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:43 AM Proud Orthodox Jew Says:

This is foolishness! The reason why we can't learn is not because CHAZAL in their ultimate wisdom deemed studying the Torah as an injoyment. The reason is because the Posuk says in Tehillim that Torah is enjoyable! If the Torah says it's enjoyable then obviousally in some way it IS enjoyable! The reasoning (whether it's the "body" or the "soul" that enjoys it) is not relevant, because once the Torah says it's enjoyable we KNOW that that is the way it is! The whole argument over weather a minor can study Torah is only discussing weather the posuk was said regarding minors NOT CV weather we believe minors enjoy Torah! The whole idea that Torah must fit into the way we understand things is COMPLETELY TREIF AND FORBIDEN! This was and is the ways of the reform and conservative!

7

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:44 AM Anonymous Says:

Dear #1 - you are arguing on the Mishna brurah's pshat you know..

8

 Jul 19, 2010 at 11:49 AM Anonymous Says:

by the same token it would be forbidden to learn on Shabbos if you don't like it, since its a "Tsar" and on Shabbos we need an Oineg Shabbos.

9

 Jul 19, 2010 at 12:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
David Says:

What if I like fasting and hate fancy, traif food? Can I spend Tisha b'Av at a French restaurant?

What if you enjoy sitting on stools, should you sit on a king throne instead? or a lazy boy chair?

10

 Jul 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM Anonymous Says:

It's about 2 thousand years after the 2nd churban and about 2500 after the 1st churban yet we find ourselves in the same old golus, nothing has really changed. I firmly believe the six million martyrs that died al kiddush hashem during the holocaust are at least equal in loss for Judaism if not greater than the churban's.

11

 Jul 19, 2010 at 01:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

What if you enjoy sitting on stools, should you sit on a king throne instead? or a lazy boy chair?

you are ignoring his point by trying to take a cheap shot at him. the answe to your question is that if someone were to enjoy sitting on that then perhaps he shouldn't be sitting that way on t"b

12

 Jul 19, 2010 at 01:28 PM Proud Orthodox Jew Says:

Reply to 10 In essence you are right and in fact there is an explicit Gemorah that states that when a Tzadik dies it's like a churbun beis hamikdash (although one must understand exactly what this meens). The tragedy of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash is a tragic for many reasons. One reason is that this is the root cause of all the tragic events that came afterwords. It's because Hashem left us that all tragic events occur! May we merit to see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash and the end of all pain speedily in our days!

13

 Jul 19, 2010 at 01:38 PM לומד הלכות Says:

די טעם פארוואס מען לערנט נישט תשעה באב איז ווייל מען טאר נישט מסיח דעת זיין פון אבילות. עס האט ניט צוטוען מיט שמחה

14

 Jul 19, 2010 at 02:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

It's about 2 thousand years after the 2nd churban and about 2500 after the 1st churban yet we find ourselves in the same old golus, nothing has really changed. I firmly believe the six million martyrs that died al kiddush hashem during the holocaust are at least equal in loss for Judaism if not greater than the churban's.

Which catastrophy is greater is irrelevant . The shoah was just another tragic chapter ,of incomprehensible proportion ,in the Golus .

15

 Jul 19, 2010 at 03:02 PM Anonymous Says:

How about eating meat and drinking wine or listening to music if you don`t enjoy it? obviously it has nothing to do with what 'you' enjoy, it`s just that it`s says in Tehilim "pikudei hashem yeshorim mesamchei leiv'

16

 Jul 19, 2010 at 04:05 PM Anonymous Says:

What about the issues facing us today? Let's del with that in the nine days instead of hair-splitting , hahcking ah tcheinik and dreiying ah kupp. Maybe if we can address crisis issues facing the Jewish community and work to resolve them , Moshiach will finally come.

17

 Jul 19, 2010 at 04:49 PM Anonymous Says:

I think pshat is with rambam kofen osei ad shyomer rotsai ani

18

 Jul 19, 2010 at 05:42 PM Anonymous Says:

Dear #16,

All very nice - except for part one of this was Talmud Torah - straight Talmud Torah, which is a solution for all the bitul Torah that goes on when Jews get on teh internet. And the latter part of his article deals with how to get kids to listen and not drop out of Yeshivos and stuff. This is hardly hair-splitting hacking ah tcheinik.. It is a fantastic article.

19

 Jul 19, 2010 at 05:46 PM power up Says:

Reply to #10  
Anonymous Says:

It's about 2 thousand years after the 2nd churban and about 2500 after the 1st churban yet we find ourselves in the same old golus, nothing has really changed. I firmly believe the six million martyrs that died al kiddush hashem during the holocaust are at least equal in loss for Judaism if not greater than the churban's.

Its very wrong to compare the holocaust to the churben, although the total estimated loss of people at the holocause is far greater (at the churben was about 1.2 million) its the shchina we are crying for, the beis hamikdosh, the hester punim, we are not crying for the gashmiusdiga bodies

20

 Jul 19, 2010 at 06:42 PM HaNavon Says:

The Rambam says that we have rules and laws that are good for most of the community, but not necessarily for each and every individual, but nevertheless we all need to keep them.
Of course the person shouldn't learn on Tisha B'av, unless he happens to have a chaishek that day for the first time in his life and you have reason to believe that by doing so he can change his path completely, in which case I would learn with him myself!
What's interesting is that the Yaavitz says that since we don't do things on shabbos that we do in the weekday, if you spend your whole week learning, you should refrain from it on shabbos.

21

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