The Learning Pyramid

An easy way to plan your torah learning

Torah means “instruction” and “teaching.” Thus, the Torah is the primary “instruction manual for humans” and is also the source of all ‘teaching’ regarding each life. It’s not just a book on the shelf of a research library, but an ethical will that’s been personally handed down from our ancestors. Torah is more than an heirloom, it’s a constitution, an inheritance that the Jewish people have shared with the world. 

The Torah’s not meant to be a history book, nor a topic for academic research or university-style study, either. It also isn’t a cultural remnant. And it isn’t meant only for the Orthodox or for rabbis. 

The Torah is for all of us, to be read and felt daily at all ages and stages. It is, was, and always will be relevant. Applicable to each one of us, to apply in every area of our lives; relevant to our most noble dreams and to our most dishonorable indulgences. The mitzvah of learning Torah (called Talmud Torah) is important to remember daily, too.

For clarification, the word “Torah” is not only the Five Books of Moses, but also is all Jewish texts such the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible, all commentary, all rabbinic, halakhic, kabbalistic and hasidic writings. According to the ancient sages, when one learns Torah, one then actually can comprehend and grasp the will and wisdom of G‑d, He Whom no thought can grasp, nor [can any thought grasp] His will and wisdom. In fact, this is the meaning of [Torah study] “for its own sake,” which is [study] with the intent of binding one’s soul to G‑d by comprehending the Torah.

         * – Sefer HaTanya; Sec. Likkutei Amarim, Ch. 5; [source: Zohar (Vayakhel, p. 210)]

Rabbi Ethan Tucker put it well when he wrote: “…the Western culture in which we live has great merit, but there are also larger, corrosive elements. There’s a culture of self-indulgence, of focusing solely on yourself and what you like. In this sense, Torah is counter-cultural. The way water fights your body’s natural path towards dehydration, Torah can help transcend selfish inclinations and provide guidance toward a life of purpose and obligation…”


Additionally, Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman is spot-on when he says:

I learn Torah every day because I want to hear and grow from God’s personalized daily message for me.

Every day I find something in one of the texts that I study which, if I concretize it, will make me a better parent, or a better spouse, or better employee, etc. Often this is applied through me demonstrating more patience, calmness, and proper speech — which also makes me a better human being…and a better Jew.

I learn Torah every day because it sharpens my mind.

Trying to figure out why Rashi commented on a particular verse, following a very nuanced explanation of a complex theological concept over many days, and trying to remember and keep all the context variables straight in the application of a particular Jewish law, all stretch and develop my mind in multiple ways. By exercising my mind in these ways, I am constantly developing a Jewish way of thinking.

Those who participate in the daily study of the Talmud will be quick to agree with the maxim that the Talmud is ‘brain food,’ and if one were to ask any lawyer who has spent time learning in a yeshiva, every one of them will attest that the mental exertion needed for law school is like kindergarten compared to that of learning Talmud.

I learn Torah every day because I’m addicted to learning Torah.

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know, and I realize how much more there is to learn. Thankfully, there is no Torah Anonymous to cure me of this! I know that, over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time learning Torah and I know a lot, but I’m humbled every time I read a good Torah essay or hear a good Torah lecture. This causes me to want to learn even more. I want Torah (i.e., God’s wisdom) to be so a part of me that I’m able to make connections between what’s in different texts, and to be able to come up with Torah insights — so this drives me to learn even more.

I learn Torah every day because I enjoy connecting to God’s mind.

The goal of learning Torah is not only to acquire divine wisdom, but also to connect with God. Although every mitzvah connects one with God, it is specifically through learning Torah that one’s mind (via his/her soul) and God’s “mind” intertwine and become one. It’s the strongest bond we can have with God. Being at one with God’s wisdom while learning Torah is the deepest of deep meditations.

Learning Torah is more than just reading Hebrew-school level “Bible Stories.” Learning Torah can infuse meaning and perspective into one’s life.

I learn Torah every day because it gives me a cohesive set of answers to all of the ultimate questions.

What really is God? Why did God create the world? What is the purpose of the Jewish people? Why do bad things happen to good people? What really is prayer? How can one get the most out of life? What are the keys to a successful marriage? What is the secret to happiness?

Science cannot answer these questions, and psychological theories and philosophical speculation have failed to provide consistent and unwavering answers.

The Torah offers eternal answers to such questions.

I learn Torah every day because it reminds me who I really am.

Torah reminds me that I am not my profession, nor am I any of the titles I have, nor the roles that I play, nor do my possessions (or lack of) define me. Rather, at my core, I am a soul — and that is what matters most. This holds true for every Jew as well. Therefore, I should not base my views of fellow Jews on which type of synagogue they attend, nor on what they look like, nor on who they are going to vote for in the next presidential election, but that they are each a soul.

Anyone — at any time —anyone can start learning Torah. A great place to begin is the website, which has easy-to-read essays on a wide range of Jewish topics, such as: Judaism 101, Spirituality, Israel, Family, and Current Events; and, there are thousands of videos of short talks on the website

The ancient rabbinic text of advice, Pirkei Avot, challenges us: “…do not say: ‘When I will have free time I will study,’ for perhaps you will never have free time…” (2:4).

So what are you waiting for? Go learn some Torah! But be warned: it’ll change your life.

Additional sources: – by Rabbi Joel E. Hoffman

Also sourced from:

Thanks to Rabbi Ilan Weinberg, coordinator of youth programs and community events for Chabad of Port Washington, New York. 


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