I decided to study the Torah. It was in me for a long time, and now i finally began setting times for learning Torah (Shabbat 31a). It’s hard and illogical: I want to study the Torah without actually doing a complete teshuva.
The trigger to finally start it was an assignment in Jewish-Italian course i took last semester. The assignment is to analyze a translation of Ethics of the Fathers to Jewish-Italian. Very soon understood that to perform a good analysis i need to understand the Hebrew pshat (basic literal meaning) well. I asked Michael, a friend at work and the closest to a Talmid Hacham (Torah scholar) of all the people i know for some help, but he said – “Get yourself a Kehati. Preferably with Bartanura. Will cost you just a little over 300 NIS.” I can be somewhat proud that i know what Kehati is – it is an orthodox commentary of the Mishna written by Rabbi Pinhas Kehati in modern Israeli Hebrew and it is wildly popular among all Torah learners in today’s Israel, children and adults. Eventually i went and bought a complete hardcover set of Mishna with both Kehati and Bartanura1 commentaries (360 NIS in a bookstore near Meah Shearim). It is totally gorgeous – 13 volumes, clearly printed with modern fonts. And it is easy to understand. Not completely academic – Kehati says about many passages that “some explain it as x and some explain it as y” without citing the source2. But it doesn’t bother me too much right now. It’s more Torah for me that there ever was. And i even enjoy it.
There are passages which are great by any measure, such as “Love work, loath mastery over others, and avoid intimacy with the government” (Avot 1, 5). And there are some that seem horrible such as “One who excessively converses with a woman causes evil to himself, neglects the study of Torah, and, in the end, inherits purgatory” (Avot 1, 10), but it makes a little more sense with the commentary. Of course, one who studies the Torah with true seriousness cannot compare different verses like i just did, because “Moses received the Torah from Sinai” (Avot 1, 1) and so it is supposed to be complete and absolute and perfect. But my study is lacking. At least i acknowledge it. What will happen when i reach the Shabbat tractate, one which i violate every week? I will be filled with more and more shame with every page i learn, but probably still won’t do a teshuva. God only knows, as they say.
I’m sorry if this entry was boring again.
1 Written by Rabbi Obadiah from Bertinoro, which is a town in Italy. Because of the way it is written in Hebrew letters, it is often pronounced “Bartanura”.
2 A few cross-references and apparati critici for Mishna already exist, it is just a matter until they are published with Kehati.