We all try to do perform all the mitzvos properly, and strive to be yotzei according to all the shitos. Is that the case with the mitzva of Yedias Hatorah?
It may very well be that you spend much time in learning Shas and Poskim in depth, but you didn’t even get close to fulfilling this mitzva!
The Ba’al Hatanya, in his famed Hilchos Talmud Torah (1:4, 2:1 and more, see the text for his sources), rules and defines this mitzva as “Knowing all the 613 mitzvos along with their explanations and halachos”) . Just as the mitzva of eating matza has a shiur – one k’zayis – so does the mitzva of Yedias Hatorah, and it is to know it all!
This mitzva cannot be achieved by merely knowing even the entire Shas and Shulachan Aruch! As many masechtos of Mishnayos are not elucidated in Talmud Bavli or Yerushalmi, and Shulchan Aruch only includes halachos of the mitzvos that apply in our times.
There is one sefer that has in it the entire Torah Sheb’al Peh in a clear, concise, methodical, and intelligible way – the Mishneh Torah by the Rambam:
“This text will be a compilation of the entire Torah Sheb’al Peh, including also the ordinances, customs, and decrees that were enacted from the time of Moshe Rabeinu until the completion of the Gemara, as were explained by the Ge’onim in the texts they composed after the Talmud.”
“A person should first study the Torah Shebik’sav, and then study this text and comprehend the entire Torah Sheb’al Peh from it, without having to study any other text between the two.”
– The Rambam in his introduction to the Mishneh Torah
To sum-up – studying the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah is the choicest and easiest way to fulfill this unique mitzva of knowing and remembering the entire Torah, for several reasons:
- Its scope. Mishneh Torah is the only sefer that includes all of Torah Sheb’al Peh, starting from Mishnayos, Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, Tosefta, Mechilata, Sifrah, Sifri, Midrashim and T’shuvos Hage’onim. It is also the only sefer that covers all 613 mitzvos, including those which we cannot yet observe due to the absence of the Beis Hamikdash.
- Its style. Mishneh Torah is written in a practical and clear way which is ideal for studying, categorizing, and memorizing. It constists of fourteen books that are comprised of sections (called halachos) that include p’rakim. In these chapters, the Rambam covers all topics in a comprehensive, systematic, and lucid manner, which he calls in his introduction, “fit for great and simple alike.”
Those who regularly study Mishneh Torah gain, in a relatively short period of time, a vast knowledge of all terms, definitions and halachos of the entire Torah; not just the “Yeshivishe” topics included in Seder Mo’ed, Nashim and Nizikin, but also of Zera’im, Kodshim and Taharos.
In spring of 5744 (1984), the Lubavitcher Rebbe made a plea for Jewish unity in order to abolish the cause of the galus (which are Sages tell us was caused by disunity between Jews), and emphasized that the best form of unity can be achieved through Torah, to which all Jews are connected; as “The Torah is eternal”, and hence, the unity it achieves is eternal as well.
“Within Torah itself, the most perfect unity may be achieved with a study that encompasses the entire Torah, for “Jews are linked to the Torah” – the entire Torah.
“There is a work which does just that. Rambam wrote a composition which he himself calls ‘a compendium of the entire Oral Torah’. He named this work ‘Mishneh Torah’ — ‘Repetition of the Torah’ – for ‘a person who first reads the Written Torah and then this work will know from it the entirety of the Oral Torah’. And, he writes, it is written ‘in plain language and terse style so that the entire Oral Torah might become systematically known to all’.
“This is in addition to the fulfillment of the mitzva of knowing the Torah [as outlined above].
“… In the light of the above, the following proposal is set forth:
“In addition to one’s regular study sessions in Talmud (Bavli and Yerushalmi), in the laws necessary for proper observance of mitzvos, and in other subjects in Torah, every person should learn Mishneh Torah daily. Mishneh Torah should be apportioned into sections, a different section to be learned each day. Thus, each day all Jews will learn the same section.”
Then, the Rebbe went out to outline the order of this study, in three separate cycles:
1) Three chapters daily: “Study of Mishneh Torah should follow the order arranged by the Rambam himself. Thus, study should begin with the Introduction, followed by the enumeration of the mitzvos and the listing of the mitzvos grouped in the order in which they are presented in Mishneh Torah. This should be done in the first four days. Thereafter (starting on the fifth day), three chapters a day should be learned. This cycle is concluded in a year short a few days, and a grand siyum should be conducted.”
2) One chapter a day: “Those that are unable to learn three chapters a day should learn one chapter a day (prefaced, as before, by the Introduction and enumeration of the mitzvos). This cycle will conclude in around three years.”
3) Sefer Hamitzvos: “Since one of the principal goals of learning Rambam is to unite all Jews, women and children should also participate… Thus, children, either in years or in knowledge, although unable to learn Mishneh Torah, should participate by studying a book similar to Mishneh Torah, also authored by the Rambam — Sefer Hamitzvos. In his Introduction to Sefer Hamitzvos, the Rambam writes that it serves as an ‘opening’ and ‘introduction’ to the Mishneh Torah. In it, the Rambam enumerates and briefly describes the six hundred and thirteen mitzvos which are expounded upon at length and in detail in Mishneh Torah. The mitzvos should be studied according to the order of the first and main cycle of Mishneh Torah, which differs to the order they are presented in Sefer Hamitzvos. Hence, a moreh shiur should be consulted.”
– Free translation of portions from the Rebbe’s talk on the last day of Pesach and the following days in 5744 (1944).
Since this study of the Rambam was introduced in 5744 (1984), 34 cycles have thus far been concluded, with more and more Jews joining annually! People who join in this study, enjoy both the benefits mentioned earlier in their own commitment to Torah, as well as have the great merit to be a part of this great endeavor of Jewish unity!
This year, on the 6th of Kislev, the 34th cycle of three-chapters-a-day and Sefer Hamitzvos will be concluded. On the 7th of Kislev, tens of thousands of Jews worldwide will begin the 35th cycle!
Make sure that you, too, join them, in this unprecedented show of complete Jewish unity, through the study and knowledge of the complete Torah!
Even before we conclude the 34th cycle of study of the Rambam’s magnum opus, may we merit the fulfillment of the final words in Mishneh Torah, in their most literal sense –
“Therefore, (in the time of the Geula,) the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential. As is stated, ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem as the waters cover the ocean bed.’”