Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Steady Learning... Become a Posek in 5 Years!


So you're serious about learning?! You may well have come to the conclusion that there are two main components to Torah – Aggadata and Halacha. There certainly is more to it than that, but these two areas give one a good idea of the fullness of Torah.

The Aggadata are the stories that one finds scattered throughout the Gemara etc. Though they may seem like fables of sorts, in actuality they contain the deepest secrets of the universe. Those with a love for superficiality will think that the stories in the Aggadata are no better than "Jack and the Beanstalk" and the like. Stories filled with fantasy at the best of times, and just good general living guidance at others. Those who realise that every word in the Torah (Gemara included) are completely G‑d given, will surely realise that these stories can be compared to the most outer garments of the king (King).

Those whose lives are superficial tend to think the king is all about a crown on some man's head, some elegant and royal garments, together with the best of gold, silver and diamonds that money can buy! Those who understand that the king is actually a somebody, know full well that the external garments are nothing more than a hint at the real person inside. If one really wants to know more about the king, it may take a lifetime of effort to become more acquainted with the real person – the real soul – behind the garments.

With all the fun and stories out the way – together with the deepest secrets of life itself, there is the other important area of Torah – the Halacha. The Halacha – from the word "Holech" meaning "going" is the actual rules of how to go about living one's life. When it comes to waking up in the morning, what must be done?! What about when one gets dressed – are there laws to this to?! What about walking and the clothes one wears – are there specific rules to this too?! Then there are the holy days of the year, the Shabbat and festivals. There are laws that apply to eating and drinking. There are laws regarding honest business dealings. Laws for marriage and married life. In fact, there are laws for every single second of the day. Some people (Tzaddikim) are aware of every second of the day – making sure to utilise it so that that moment is engaged in the fulfilment of G-d's will. Others are less "enthusiastic" about things, but are still very serious about fulfilling G-d's will whenever they know more about it. They are careful with eating kosher, observing the holy days etc., though they may not quite know the intricacies of serving G-d every single second of the day!

The Shulchan Aruch – written by Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575) contains the laws for every Jew to master! It is divided into four sections, though it is the first section – Orach Chaim (The Path of Life), that is by far the most important for every single Jew to be familiar with – inside and out! But with 693 chapters of learning to get through, it is by no means an easy task! More than this, in order to truly understand the original text, one needs to learn something more – something even more practical to help in understanding how to fulfil the laws – some 500 years later. The Chofetz Chaim – Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1839-1933) authored the most authoritative commentary on this first section of Shulchan Aruch – calling it the Mishna Berura or "Clear Teaching." Through learning the Mishna Berura one truly gets to grips with the first section of the Shulchan Aruch, and one learns how to conduct one's days on a day to day basis as every Jew should.

There is no excuse for anybody. Every Jew is required to work through these laws and to become totally fluent in them. Of course, knowing 693 chapters of law can certainly make one an authority of sorts! We could all leave the work of learning to the Poskim – the Halachic deciders. Alternatively we could get stuck into it ourselves, spending time each day, until we master the material on our own.

But where do we begin?! Programs of all sorts have sprouted up, and it has become easier than ever to learn the Mishna Berura today. In fact, you can find timetables to help you master the contents of the Mishna Berura in just one year! Then there are two other beautiful programs available. Would you believe that if you learned just one page (2 sides) of the Mishna Berura a day, you could complete the entire 693 chapters in just 2.5 years? And if this is too difficult, why not consider one of the most wonderful programs available – the Amud Yomi – just one side of a page of Mishna Berura a day. It will take 5 years to work through, but considering the effort you'll be putting in – for just one side of a page a day – you can become a walking encyclopaedia on the first section of the Shulchan Aruch in just this small amount of time! What's wonderful about this project is that if you follow the timetable set up, you will end up learning the laws applicable to each festival at the correct time, and then going back to the ordinary day to day learning when the festival is over.

It's a great program. I highly endorse it to anyone keen enough to want to engage in learning Halacha – Jewish law – seriously. You won't regret it! Of course, if you feel you'd like to work through it, but lack the necessary learning skills, you are always welcome to set up a one-on-one learning session with Rav Eliyahu and work through the Amud each day using Skype. The great thing is that you can accomplish an Amud within just 15-30 minutes a day!

So think of that! For just some 15-30 minutes a day, you'll get to understand the most basic Jewish laws applicable to every single Jew – in a period of just 5 years. You'll be an expert, and everyone will be asking *you* the right way to behave as a Jew!

If you're serious, I highly encourage you to take a look at Spend some time navigating the site and seeing how it works, and of course, don't forget to ask them to send you a free timetable for the 5 year learning schedule. It's a truly beautiful publication and a pleasure to work with. You'll be able to keep track of your progress, and as the days go by, you'll be excited to see just how much you're accomplishing. There's a short 5 minute insight Shiur in audio that is sent every day to help you master the material… all for free!

If you still don't come right in learning Halacha, and are in need of assistance, contact Rav Eliyahu directly, and set up a serious learning program. Go for it… 5 years, 2.5 years, or even one year! You can make it happen – this year… You can make it happen – TODAY!

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