As noted last week, it is incredible that there is so often something on the daf or other regular learning programs we follow, that is so obviously relevant to us at the time we study it.
Incredibly, after a few days focusing on Shabbos and other matters again, today’s daf contains a discussion about the period after the destruction.
We are told that for 52 two years, the land of Yehuda was so desolate that even the birds were in exile.
We are also told that the festivals are (or at least were) happier outside Israel because they were not subject to the curse of חדשיכם ומועדיכם שנאה נפשי היו עלי לטרח (I have hated your new-moons and festivals- they have become a burden to me- Yeshayahu 1,) as we just read in the Haftarah.
We are told that Talmidei Chachamim were not shown respect by default by the people in exile, who were not Bnei Torah and lacked the respect for Torah that was shown in Eretz-Yisrael, and thus had to dress up extremely smart and fancily in order to attract people’s honor, something that was neither common nor necessary in Eretz Yisrael .
Another view is that they needed to dress up in exile because אינם בני מקומם- they are not at home, and thus need to prove themselves more- In Eretz Yisrael, Talmidei Chachamim are on their home ground and do not need to dress up in the same way,
How this distinction could be or is applied today is an interesting discussion itself but let us get on with the subject of our post.
The Rema (O.C 553/2) records that it is our custom to refrain from learning any Torah that is forbidden on 9 Av itself, from midday on the eve of 9 Av.
This is an example of certain Ashkenazi customs that at least seem to have no firm basis in the Gemara and Rishonim, and in this case, ,great authorities like the רש”ל and הגר”א took issue with it and actually held that it caused unnecessary בטול תורה (disruption to Torah learning,) a severe matter indeed- see the discussion in the Mishna Berura on the subject.
The reasoning given is that even though there is plenty to learn on 9 av itself, the Gemara )Avoda Zara 19a) has already noted that אין אדם לומד אלא ממקום שלבו חפץ- a person should only learn from subject matter that he desires to learn.
Although one is obligated to try learn the entire Torah, it is best for one’s learning to start with areas that one enjoys first, and that will hopefully motivate one to explore the rest of the Torah too and even come to enjoy doing so.
This idea has major ramifications for how we should design Torah curriculums for our students in general but is specifically relevant to our question.
As most people do not enjoy the sadder subject matter permitted on 9 Av ( which is the reason why it is permitted), it follows that in the absence of a specific Talmudic injunction against learning on the afternoon before 9 Av, refraining from learning subjects that one enjoys would actually be בטול תורה , at least qualitatively and probably quantitatively too.
This could apply even more to missing one’s regular daily daf- keeping up with the daf is a specific discipline as well as a major source of satisfaction and falling behind can have a major impact on one’s motivation.
Amazingly and rather chillingly, learning much of today’s daf does not present that problem, given that it focuses on the exile and could even be studied on 9 av itself!
These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.