כנתינתה - The Torah must be learnt as it was given

Rabbi Dovi Goldstein Ohr Savoy and MD of Beth Din Kosher


Rav Hamnuna says: “The beginning of a person’s judgment is only concerning matters of Torah.” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 7a)

אמר רב המנונא אין תחילת דינו של אדם נידון אלא על דברי תורה. (סנהדרין ז.)


Shavuos is the festival when we received the Torah.1 Torah learning is the central concept in Judaism and our efforts in its study are paramount. It is the ultimate expression of our commitment to Hashem. Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish people are all one.


The study of Torah requires that we fulfil it in the same way as when we stood at Sinai. Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon)2 writes that the first thing we will be judged on is Torah study, therefore, one should study Torah without the correct reasons, for eventually we will come to study for the correct reasons.


Did we not have the correct intentions when we stood at Sinai?


The answer is that there is a deep lesson in this Rambam. We may feel guilty that we don't learn enough, do enough or that our intent is not always perfect, however, Rambam is telling us that the magical power of Torah study is that it "works" and refines us, even when our intention isn't ideal.

There was the famous Yeshiva of Kelm in pre-Holocaust Lithuania. Kelm was all about character refinement and building their students to become the best they could be. In the Yeshiva, they had a five-minute seder (learning session). This seder was not to be shortened or lengthened and every student was expected to be present. The purpose of this session was to instil in every one of the students the great power of learning Torah - even if it is only for five minutes.


This Shavuos, let’s focus on what we are doing, and have trust in Hashem that the light of the Torah will do its magic in refining us and bringing us closer to Him no matter how imperfect our intentions.


1. Talmud, Shabbat 86b; Talmud, Pesachim 68b

2. Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:5, based on Talmud, Sanhedrin 7a

©2019 by The Office of The Chief Rabbi