Commentary of Tiferes Yisrael on Pirkei Avos 2:12
“Rabbi Elazar said:’Be eager to study the Torah. Know what to respond to a heretic. Know before Whom you toil and faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.'” (Pirkei Avos 2:12)
Tiferes Yisrael: Three things are necessary for success in learning.
- Eagerness and Diligence.
If he’s not diligent to review everyday what he learned the previous day, he will lose before he gains. And the subjects will not be firmly grasped in his mind. Therefore ‘Be eager to study the Torah’
- Thoughtfulness and depth in the subjects learned.
One should not move away from anything he learns (!!) until he can answer 7 questions. (see the hebrew for details). When you can answer the 7 questions, all difficulties will be clarified for you. Also, you’ll understand the background well, and if there’s a contradiction to what you already know. You’ll also ask yourself if there are any extra words, and if yes, why this word was written. This way things will become clear like a new shirt (??). Therefore ‘know what to respond to a heretic’. i.e. It’s not enough to know reasons clearly enough to answer a kosher Jew. Rather, contemplate things so thoroughly that you can even answer a heretic who does not buy into the Torah system and uses only his human logic/common sense.
- Removal of worries and all other thoughts when learning. Therefore ‘Know before Whom you toil and who is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.’
1. Know before Whom you toil. Means, be embarassed to think other thoughts while busy doing your Employer’s work.
2. faithful is your Employer etc.. Means due to your efforts in Torah study, you will not need big efforts to obtain your livelihood. (since success in livelihood is also in His hands)
see the original Hebrew for more details.
Comment on 2nd point:Learning a piece of talmud is like going through a labyrinth (maze) at night with a small flashlight. One must focus and keep track of everything as he moves along otherwise he will lose his train of thought and become confused. This requires total concentration and a “nefesh rechava” (a wide mind).
One who trains himself to learn with a “nefesh rechava” will reach clarity of understanding in torah, which brings the greatest joy.
The student did not learn with a “nefesh rechava”. He did not learn to put the pieces together and therefore instead of having a nice complete building in the end, he wound up with a big pile of bricks.
Courtesy of Daf Yomi Review