In the last column "Why I study in yeshiva", I discussed why I study in Yeshiva. I will now explain how one can do so. Studying in Yeshiva is a task that is not without its challenges, especially when one begins the process later in life amidst family and financial responsibilities. The following are some elements to consider when embarking upon the venture of studying in yeshiva.
Time: Granted, there are only 24 hours in a day, but we all know that some of us utilize our time better than others. Figure out the time of the day when you think the clearest, and block off that period of time for Torah study.
Once you've determined a time to study, figure out a realistic way that you can reorganize your work schedule to accommodate this block of time. For example, if you are an employee, think of creative ways in which you can telecommute. If you are self-employed, you have the ability, at least in theory, to create your own hours. One of the advantages of being an entrepreneur is that you have the power to set limits and design your day the way you see fit.
Once you've designated a specific time for studying in yeshiva, it's crucial to make this time sacrosanct, and not to change your schedule except for emergencies.
Money: We all have to work for our money. But it's important to realize that although our responsibility is to put forth an effort to work, the end result is in God's hands. Create a realistic but challenging schedule that demonstrates you are putting forth genuine effort to make a living and leave the rest to God. And although you should study Torah for its own sake with no thought of reward, perhaps the merit of learning Torah will generate a blessing upon your efforts.
Intellectual challenges: While Israelis might have an edge over non native Hebrew speakers in terms of their language skills, the Talmud is a mix of Hebrew and Aramaic that must be decrypted with a type of thinking, reasoning, and logic that is foreign to most of us who were educated in the West. Even if you have mastered the language, learning Torah correctly is a great challenge.
Studying Torah in general, and Talmud in particular, is not done in a linear style. In other words, you don't read a page from top to bottom like you would a page in a history book. A page of Talmud is more analogous to a website with hundreds of links going in numerous directions than it is to a page in a textbook.
The following tips might help you in your efforts:
1) Don't expect to get it the first time. You are dealing with God's infinite wisdom. As long as you know ahead of time that you will not understand what is written the first, second, third, fourth or even fifth time you read it, you won't be frustrated as you plow through numerous readings without understanding anything. "Getting it," however, it is a very sweet experience and a wonderful reward for your hard work
2) Review, review, review: Because of the depth and breadth of Torah study, it is crucial to review over and over what you have learned. In fact, one source states that a student should review a lesson 101 times, and that number is qualitatively superior to reviewing the lesson just 100 times. While many of us may not be able to review our lessons 101 times yet, we can nonetheless do our best to review them daily as many times as we can.
3) Withstand and ignore the desire to quit: Any worthwhile pursuit will have its challenges. The greatest obstacle is your own inner voice that often will try to persuade you to throw in the towel and leave the beit midrash (study hall). As long as you don't quit before you see measurable results, you are almost guaranteed success.
4) Slow down: Don't focus on getting to the bottom of the page, but rather enjoy the moment as you plumb the depths of the text, the subtleties and nuances of each word, phrase and letter. As is the case in many other aspects of life, enjoy the journey and not just the destination. When you are truly living in the moment and fully focused on the task at hand, you will transcend time and space and experience a taste of the world to come.
5) Pray: Finally and most important, ask God for His Divine assistance in understanding and internalizing His Wisdom. You will be amazed at
the efficacy of such requests for assistance from Above.
In Torah study, every letter, every phrase that you learn is preserved eternally and worth every second of effort that you invest in it. Given the powerful "why," the "how" will soon become second nature.
Ben Goldfarb was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to Israel in 1988. He divides his time between his yeshiva studies and his coaching practice. His life calling is to help others understand their personal mission and accomplish it with humor, creativity, and spirituality. He lives with his wife and children in Jerusalem. For more information about his coaching practice, visit the Paradigm Shift Communications website, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 by Ben Goldfarb