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setting fixed times for Torah study


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Iyyar 9, 5774
Dear Rabbi, can you please advice for setting fixed times for Torah study? Should a person select a time-slot in a manner that is simply convenient or even in an arbitrary manner? An issue that I think about is that something important may come up prior to the selected time that might make studying in that time challenging or make it seem like challenging. Specifically I’m also thinking about academic work that has to be completed in the near future and the person is afraid of the looming deadline. On the other hand, it seems to me that the fixed study times should be a priority, since not having them may lead to delaying studying (perhaps indefinitely). My question are: Do you have a suggestions how the study times should be selected? (I was thinking about 2 hours on a weekday once a week as a beginning,so these times could be extended in the future or held on multiple days) Should one treat these times like an important appointment that can not usually be cancelled? What should be done if the study times could not be kept? Should one in this case plan specifically for a time period when to make up, in a realistic manner? Can setting fixed times on shabbat count as setting fixed times for Torah study or is shabbat ’reserved’ for torah study anyway and it is preferable to set fixed times during the weekdays? Thank you very much in advance! It is highly appreciated.
Shalom! You have clearly thought a lot about the topic and all of your answers and solutions sound great! In fact, one of the 6 questions one is asked when he goes to heaven is: “did you establish set times for learning Torah?” (Shabbat 31a). As you inferred, one must be realistic when doing so, not accepting a certain time as an oath (neder), because the Torah is a living Torah, and we all know that there are unexpected surprises in life. Nevertheless, it’s very important to set that regular schedule, like an appointment that’s not easily cancelled, knowing that it may unfortunately and occasionally, be subject to change, and establishing a realistic “second-choice” schedule to fill in that time when it doesn’t work out, just as you wrote. It’s important to have a nice block of time, like 2 consecutive hours as many days a week as possible, to enable learning something in depth (preferably with a chevruta, a study-partner), but there’s also importance in setting aside even 15 minutes a day or even 1 halacha, to really have kvi’ut in learning at least something every single day. You are correct that one should set time during the week for learning, and that much more on Shabbat. May I just suggest, in the name of the Mishna Brura, that at least part of your set study should include the learning of halacha, as well as mussar (ethics and life evaluation, such as Pirkei Avot, Chovot Halvavot, Mesilat Y’sharim, Mussar Avicha, etc.). As R. Yisrael Salanter said, if one learns 15 minutes a day of mussar, he will find that he has more than 15 minutes a day to learn! B’hatzlacha in your important endeavor!
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