Given: October 19, 2022
The following is an excerpt from the lecture titled above introducing the topic of “Darkness” and “Torah in the klippah.” The Q&A portion elucidates the profound problems with current Torah education and the general remedy.
What is not described in detail here, but which is available on the Rabbi’s “RAMAT” page of the website, is the Rabbi’s concept of “Rapid Education” to facilitate a profound revolution in Torah education necessary at the End of Time.
R’Kessin: I once spoke about this, what it means to learn a blat—page a day. How can you learn the Torah by learning one page per day?
At the End of Time, there will be tremendous existential Darkness, the mem-tet-sha’arei tumah—49th Gate of Defilement. That means that the Jews will be amaratzim—ignorant. They will be ignoramuses. That’s the “Darkness.” It that’s the case, they’re not learning Torah. If they’re not learning Torah, who will take the Torah out of the klippah—“husk” of impurity which surrounds and imprisons it?
Therefore, the Ribono Shel Olam—Master of the Universe put in the mind of Rabbi Shapiro to create the “Daf Yomi” structure, learning a page per day. Therefore, the misiras nefesh—self-sacrifice it takes to get up at 5a.m., or whatever, for seven-and-a-half years fufills the sacrifice of one’s comfort which fulfills the idea that it’s the yegiah—labor, the sacrifice itself, that takes the Torah out of the klippah. This is why such a practice is enormously valuable. There are thousands of Jews doing the Daf Yomi. Whether they have comprehension or not, they have to struggle to keep up with it. So, the Ribono Shel Olam arranged a spiritual event that can actually, in a certain sense, solve the problem of taking the Torah out of the klippah through struggle.
But G-D must educate the Jewish people too as part of the Redemption. He’s not going to bring the Jewish people who are total ignoramuses to a mashiach. I’ve outlined certain ways that this is very possible to do.
This is the concept of the stages of mashiach, how he will come, what the stages are, and the prediction that the Torah actually tells us of, that there will be a mem-tet-sha’arei tumah. Let’s hope that, this year, the process of mashiach will begin and the dominion of evil over the Jewish people will cease and there will no longer be evil but only tov—good.
Q&A: The Current Failure and the Solution
Participant: Ha’Shem has to educate the Jewish people for mashiach to come. The education doesn't have to be like a deep concept; it could even be on the surface? The main thing is the struggling and sacrifice of our time to hear it? Is that basically how we're going to be redeemed, because of the sacrifice of it?
R’Kessin: No, they'll actually know the Torah.
Participant: We will actually know the Torah?
R’Kessin: Yes, because, as I showed you from the midrash Rabbah, if you learn mishnayos, you can, actually, learn the entire Torah. People do not realize how much there is in the mishnayos. There are 4,192 mishnas. It's a lot of mishnayos. If you think about it, each mishnah has approximately eight halachos—laws so, if you multiply 8 x 4,192, that's over 33.000 halachos. Do you know how much that is, 33.000 halachos?
The interesting thing about the mishnayos is that mishnayos is not a textbook. What Rebbe wrote is not a textbook. It's a record of the oral law and, therefore, there's a tremendous amount missing, the introduction to the Mishnah, many ideas that the Mishnah does not bring down and which should have been brought down. Then there are ideas from meforshim—exegetes, classical rabbinical commentaries on the Mishnah. So, if you add up all the missing information, basically, there are over 100.000 yedios ha’Torah mishnayos—concepts of the Mishnah.
That is a phenomenal amount of information that, if you learn, especially if the mishnayos is organized in a certain way—and it can be as I once talked about with “mishneic maps”—then it is possible to know and to become a formidable talmid chacham in a very short order. This is because mishnayos is the entire platform of the oral law; that's what Rebbe did. If somebody really focuses, really concentrates on that, he will know over 100,000 yedios.
Ask yourself: how many people know a hundred thousand facts, information of the oral law?—very few! Very few have that type of mastery or command of the oral law. So, could you imagine what it means to learn mishnayos beiyun—in depth? It’s not hard because mishnayos is not like Gemara in the sense that there's no give and take discussion, no debate; it's straight facts. If this material were organized and taught in a precise, sequenced path, a consistent method, it would be incredible.
If you taught everybody four mishnayos a day, you would know the whole thing in three years. Could you imagine, in three years, knowing the totality of Torah? And if you learn six mishnayos a day, you could finish in two years and four months. Ultimately, if you learn twelve mishnayos a day, you'd finish the whole thing in one year! It’s possible—you should know—to finish all of it in one year! There are sefarim—books, publications that allow you to do that.
Therefore, it's a no-brainer. Imagine any kid in high school has a seder—not the whole day because he can learn Gemara a part of the day—but had one seder--time period when he learns four mishnayos a day. Imagine a 13-year-old kid who, by the time he's 15 or 17, will have become an incredible talmid chacham! If he commits it to memory—which isn’t hard, by the way; there are ways to memorize all of it, all 4,193 mishnayos—imagine what this kid would become! It’s beyond belief—and at only 16 years old!
That, eventually, has to happen because that's the only way to educate somebody in a rapid way. It's called “rapid education.” There is no other way. The question is: will G-D do this through natural means, or supernaturally? I believe that it's going to be through natural means because, when the mashiach comes because the world is at the level of mem tes shaarei tumah—49th Gate of defilement, mashiach will come naturally because the Jewish people do not deserve that he come supernaturally.
So, the question is: is there a natural way to teach, educate the Jews in a very accelerated, expeditious way without sacrificing depth and comprehensive command of the entire oral law? The answer is: yes—mishnayos!
Mishnah includes many ideas that are not in the Mishnah but are part of the Mishnah. You can include Rishonim, Acharonim and so on; there's no end to how much you can include but, in the end, it means that you can know the entire oral law with incredible mastery just by learning mishnayos, you see?
Today, there are many ways to do that. For instance, ArtScroll has three mishnayos, three different types. They bring down all the missing information that the Mishnah leaves out. If you learn mishnayos with Art Scroll, or Kehati, or a superb mishnayos called “Besiyata Dishmaya,” you will become a tremendous talmid chacham. You will know more than 90% of all Jews just by that. So, there are educational alternatives to what is going on today.
This doesn't mean you learn mishnayos all day—no. You could learn Gemara in the morning and the afternoon, but there has to be a time period that people will wake up and realize that you could become an unbelievable talmid chacham by learning facts, halachos, and not learning Shulchan Aruch because a lot of it is minhagim—customs. You want to learn the ORAL LAW so mishnayos is an incredible way to do it.
Participant: Where does this whole process of learning fall into the process of mashiach? Is it after Mashiach ben Yosef is revealed? Is it after Gog U'Magog, the war? Is it before Mashiach ben David? When are we going to have this revelation of knowledge across the border, across all the Jewish nation?
R’Kessin: There are many obstacles to overcome, but I believe that, if people wake up and realize that what G-D wants is to have a mastery of the Torah--as it says, “Ashrei me she’bo l’kahn v’talmudo yehie b’yodo”—happy is the man who comes with the entire talmud, the entire learning, in his hand. That's called “mastery.” If people thought there were a way to do it...do you think the only way to master the oral law is to learn the entire Shas?—no, not really; it's just one way. But there’s another way, and you see that from the Mishnah, where it says in “Mishnayos Pirkei Avos” that, by five- years-old, you should learn Tanach. By ten-years-old, you should learn mishnayos. By the age of fifteen, you should learn Gemara. So, the Mishnah itself tells you that you need to learn mishnayos first because that is the knowledge itself, the database that you have to have before you learn Gemara.
Even if you want to learn it simultaneous with Gemara, how could you not learn a database? This is the basis of the entire Torah, the mishnayos. People ignore that and, therefore, many people never really succeed in learning and mastering the oral law.
From the midrash—exegetical commentary, the secret is exposed of what this really means. The “Midrash Rabbah” that I communicated to you says that the exiles can only end due to the zechus—merit of limud mishnayos—learning mishnayos. Do you realize what that statement is, that the galus—exile will end, can only end, due to the zechus, the merit, of limud mishnayos? How else could you take advantage of the enormous advanced level of what will be going on in the messianic era? That midrash points out exactly how. It’s a midrash, not me! G-D must educate the Jewish people. You cannot enter the messianic era as an ignoramus. That midrash points out exactly how. It's the midrash; it's not me! It says: mishnayos. I'm merely explaining what the midrash means and why. It’s because mishnayos is a complete record of the oral law and today we have sefarim that bring down all the missing information. It’s unbelievable!
I believe that, if you took even a 10-year-old kid and imparted to him the entire shisha sidrei Mishnah, I believe he would possess impressive scholarship. You could compare him to almost anybody and he would easily knock everybody out. It's an incredible idea that, for whatever reason, it’s not caught on. People don't realize that you need an introduction, need a basic preparation to learn Gemara. You need data, halacha, but not the halacha of Shulchan Aruch. You need the halacha of the mishnayos because that is the totality of the oral law.
I'll tell you of one incident which is very interesting. There was a very big gadol b’Yisroel, Rabbi Yisroel Zev Gustman. A lot of people have heard of him. He lived, I think, till 1990. He was an incredibly great, scholarly person. He was on the beis din, on the court, of Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski who was the gadol ha'dor—great one of his generation. He was on that beis din to sit and adjudicate cases. Do you know how old he was? He was 21-years-old sitting on a beis din with the gadol ha'dor. That's incredible! How does a man achieve such greatness, such command of Torah? The answer is because—I read a biography of him—when he was a little kid, he went to a cheder and the minahel--principal of that cheder did not allow any kid to learn Gemara unless he finished all shisha sidrei Mishnah. That's exactly what happened in Europe. You couldn't learn Gemara unless you knew the entire shisha sidrei mishnah; that's 4,192 mishnayos. It’s written in his biography that Rav Gustman, therefore, learned shisha sidrei mishnah—all of it, and he knew it by heart! Could you imagine a 10- year-old kid knowing the entire mishnayos by heart? That's how he was able to finish Shas at 16, right? Mishnayos, by the way, is forty percent of Shas; people don't realize that. That's why he was able to sit on the beis din of Rav Chaim Ozer at the age of twenty-one.
Beyond the study of mishnayos as a database, a foundation, there is a further advance to be made. It is based on the RaMCHaL’s “Method.” That method would significantly structure the content, synthesizing it and creating a “map.” I describe this in greater detail in some of my other shiurim. Therefore, there are two changes to be made. The learning of mishnayos in depth committed to memory during or before the study of Gemara, and having access to “mishnaic maps” that elucidate the material making it easily grasped by the mind. The relationships among the many ideas becomes succinctly and logically perceptible.
Imagine if you had every kid—and I believe you can do that with every kid—memorize all shisha sidrei mishnah! Imagine what they'll know! I'm not saying they're going to sit on the beis din, obviously, but imagine the unbelievable advancement of klal Yisroel if they knew the entire oral law by heart? It would be monumental yet nobody seems to understand and, like I said, mishnayos is forty percent of Shas. That's how much “room” it takes.
If there were one seder—let’s say a two-hour seder when each kid would learn four to six mishnayos a day, doing that in a shiur and committing it to memory which is not that hard—imagine what they would know! Imagine what that would do for the Jewish people! If a Jew wants to “come back” to become a baal teshuva, he would be able to learn the entire oral law in two years. Could you believe that? Instead of taking thirty-five years, he would do it in two. People don't realize the profound significance of that.
And I want to tell you something; here's the mistake that is made in the kiruv movement. Here it comes; in order to make somebody a baal teshuva, there are two things you have to do. The first is to “turn ‘em on,” to inspire them to become committed to being Jewish, to learning, to doing mitzvos, but especially to learning. The second is to transform them into remarkable talmidei chachamim because then they'll remain with the Jewish religion. You need the Torah. Without that, they slip and fall back.
But how to accomplish that? A guy going to yeshiva takes thirty-five years to figure out what's going on, until he finishes the whole Shas. What a mistake! He could learn mishnayos beiyun, could finish it in two years and, in those two years, he would know 4,192 mishnas, would know forty percent of Shas and know over 100,000 yedios, facts, knowledge of the Torah itself. And he can even do it in one year; it's possible. He would have the Torah! That's what the baal teshuva movement has to do. The only way to make a guy stay is if you teach him Torah. But it can't be Torah that takes decades. They've got to know it now. They haven’t the time or the patience. So, actually, mishnayos is the solution to making baalei teshuva committed to, remain devoted to, Yiddishkeit.
It would save all the baalei teshuva. Imagine that baal teshuva can know the Torah in a year, or two years or, maximum, three years and he learned it beiyun, in tremendous depth? Could you imagine what that could do?
What about all those adults that learned in yeshiva and hardly know anything? This approach would save them because, with this advance, they could learn mishnayos beiyun, in depth, and would be able to master the entire oral law in 1-3 years. It would save them. Imagine, too, what it would do for the high schools.
What about the daf yomi guys? What is “Daf Yomi”? How can a guy remember anything with Daf Yomi? But, what happens if a guy learned the mishnayos of that masechta that he's going to learn in Daf Yomi and he knew it by heart? That would change the entire fabric of that masechta because he would have all the knowledge. It would be absolutely incredible! It would take Daf Yomi and transform it from a “learning experience” to a “knowing experience.”
I believe it will also save all the at-risk kids. How? The reason most people rebel is because they fail. You can't believe the number of kids that fail in the yeshiva. I believe that seventy percent of any given class never make it. Eventually they leave because Gemara is an advanced limud--study. Gemara is advanced; it presupposes that you have a thorough grasp of the database of Shas. Only mishnayos can give that to you if it's taught the right way. Take an at-risk kid and you teach him mishnayos employing methods that will greatly spur him on and increase his interest. There are different ways of teaching it. Done the way I envision, he would re-commit to learning Torah and being Torah-observant.
Look at the payoff; it would save the baalei teshuva, would be the adult education, would massively improve Daf Yomi, would save the at-risk kids and, were it introduced in every high school with a two-hours seder of mishnayos beiyun, it would make every kid in every high school—maybe even in the 7th or 8th grades—into a superlative scholar, a talmid chacham. It could be designed as an incredible textbook, digital and otherwise, based on the mishnayos. Wouldn't that be incredible?—and it would end the galus. There you are; I make my case.
Participant: How do we turn the ignoramus into one who learns in a natural way? In my opinion, the only way to do that is through a supernatural way.
R’Kessin: What you are saying is true, but I believe there's a concept called “pyramid.” Let me explain that to you. We make a mistake. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews—forget millions! Let's just deal with the people now. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews that are dying to be talmidei chachamim, dying to know the Torah. Think of Lubavitch. The Lubavitch has five thousand shluchim—emissaries. Each has a judaic center, has who knows how many hundreds of thousands of baalei batim—parishoners who don't know anything. What happens if there were an educational process that can make every baal ha’bas, a master of the oral law? That's Lubavitch.
What about Lev L’achim in Eretz Israel? what about Arachim, right? There are so many baalei teshuva movements. They don't know what to do with the guys, basically, so they do the standard, teach them Gemara. Of course, that's not going to work because it will take years and most people don't have the time.
They're not the only ones. There are hundreds of thousands of adults that are basic amoratzim who’ve failed and don't remember anything even though they'd been in yeshiva for twenty years. I've spoken to who-knows-how-many. They don't remember what they learned in yeshiva. How could they? It's very difficult to learn Gemara because Gemara is shakla v’tarya. Ninety percent of the Gemara requires give and take, requires debate, and nobody remembers the shakla v’tarya unless you review it fifty times. Nobody reviews it fifty times.
Walk over to any guy who went to yeshiva and ask him, “What do you remember from what you learned? Likely, he’ll say “little” or “nothing” but what happens if he memorizes a certain platform—mishnayos—and they knew that by heart? Do you know how easy it is to recall anything when you know the entire mishnayos by heart? Then you have the entire “file cabinet.” You know exactly where every halacha is because you know all 4,192 mishnayos. Do you see? This is really, in the end, what has to happen.
The beauty of this is the midrash Rabbah where it says this innovation of approach will end the galus. I'm just explaining that G-D wants Jews to master the oral law and the way to do it is to learn mishnayos. There are many gemaras that talk about this. It's really astounding what knowing all mishnayos can do for a person if he learns it the right way, in depth, and commits it to memory which is not hard. It's the mistake that people make to think it is hard. This is the way to do it.
How do you convince people? I don't know. Someday, they will be convinced because I believe this is the way to do it, through natural means called the “limud mishnayos,” and that will end the exile.
I’m trying to convey that here are hundreds of thousands of Jews who, now, want to learn Torah. They want to master the Torah and they can't because everybody thinks the only way to master the Torah is Gemara. Of course, it's true, but that's not the only way. For many, a different way is called for. In fact, much more basic is to master the mishnayos, like that which we learn from the story of Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman. But even this can be improved upon by synthesizing the material and structuring it further.
The Gemara itself says that: first it’s ben chamesh l’mikrah—5-year-old learning Tanach—Five Books, then eser shana l’mishnah—10-year-old learning Mishnah, and then learning Gemara at 15.
You have to ask yourself: what's the rush? Why do you have to subject a pre-adolescent kid to learning Gemara? Why don't I teach him the entire shisha sidrei Mishnah? To my mind, all of this is tragic; everybody's learning advanced material without knowing the basics—mishnayos.
Start off with these people; educate 300.000 Jews, making them masters of the oral law. I guarantee you that all the baalei teshuva will now introduce this method to the people that they make religious, so it will “pyramid” because people will be astonished at the speed of mastery. So, it will pyramid! First you'll have—let’s say—a hundred students. They will tell their friends and it becomes a thousand people. They will tell their friends that there's a way to do this that's validated by the chazal—sages.
There's a masechta Sanhedrin, page 42, where it says that Rav Yochanan says, “With whom can you find a Jew that could wage war with Torah?” In other words, this he refers to somebody who can learn Torah and actually understand it, somebody who has “bundles” of mishnayos. It says that; it's a gemara. Rashi comments on that, saying that even if you have a great head, there's no comparison to knowing the Mishnah because then you have all the yedios, all the knowledge, all the basic information and concepts and, therefore, that's the way to do it. This is on Rabbi Yochanan. There are many gemaras like that.
I believe this would be a tremendous means for solving the amoratzim predicament of klal Yisroel. It would be interesting to have a convention. There's no such thing in Judaism. There are medical conventions, legal conventions and so on, but there's no such thing as a convention in traditional Judaism. Yes, people will tell me there is, like “Torah U’vsorah,” that have conventions, but they fall short of the mark. It must be examined why is it that so many people, after being in yeshiva for twenty years, hardly remember anything. Do these conventions ever deal wit this fact?—no of course not.
Did you ever wonder how a college makes a guy an engineer in five years? Do you know how much information of physics and mathematics a guy in college has to have to become a certified engineering? How do they do it? They don't begin with an advanced book. They begin from the beginning, “Engineering 101.” They don't begin with a journal article about engineering.
What few understand is that Gemara is an advanced treatment of Torah. You can't begin with that, especially not a 10-year-old kid; it’s insane. Why?—because they don't know the basics. They need a database, a foundation. Kids don't have foundations. If every adult would have the foundation of the entire oral law and would know it by heart, could you imagine what kind of revolution that would be? Yes, there should be a convention that announces this to people, tells them, “You people are making a tremendous mistake.” This misconception is why most kids, tragically, aren’t learning to “know” anything, or hardly anything; they don't remember anything. They'll know it when they learn it—maybe—but they’re not going to remember anything because they're learning Gemara, learning Torah from an advanced sefer without a foundation. Nobody does that or advocates for that in professional educative circles but that's what is done all the time in yeshiva. What can I tell you; It's tragic. Any other questions?
Participant: Since you know it so well, why don't you put out a memo to all the yeshivot to let them know?
R’Kessin: Because nobody will buy it. Everybody's convinced what they do is the way; that's why. Logic will not work because everybody wants to learn lamdus. Everybody wants to learn Gemara in depth. Nobody's interested—of course they are interested incidentally—but nobody realizes you need a basis, need a foundation of a database before you really can know anything. If you don't do it that way, you'll always know the Torah piecemeal and won't remember it because, as I said, almost all of the Gemara is debate. Nobody remembers that unless you review it ten, twenty, thirty times, which nobody does! That's a tragic mistake that everybody makes.
I once said, imagine an organization called “Dirshu”—to seek and they pay you, give bechinos—exams. So, I once tried to convince one of the people in Dirshu to do the mishnayos. In other words, you have to learn six mishnayos every day and then you get tested, get feedback. In two-and-a-half years, you will know the totality of the oral law instead of in seven-and-a-half. Then you can learn the Gemara once you have the database of mishnayos, knowing the entire oral law in depth. Then, you get bechinos, get examinations, the assessment. That's the way to do it or, at least, make a separate track for that. It fell on deaf ears. What can I tell you? That's how it is.
There's a great deal more to say about all of this which, but this is, obviously, not the forum for that. I've just described, in many ways, a tragedy because, when people go to yeshiva for twenty years and hardly remember anything, how do you think they feel? They feel terrible because they know they don't remember anything. Can you imagine going to school for twenty years and hardly remembering anything? When you learned it, perhaps you knew it. But the main test is whether you retain it well after.
If you asked G-D, “What do You want?” do you know what He’d answer?
He’d says, “I already told you.” It says in “Kriat Shema” "V’shinantam l’vanecha"—and you shall teach them to your children diligently.
The Gemara in “Kiddushin” asks, “What does it mean ‘teach them diligently’?” It means that the content should be “sharp in your mouth.” Rashi explains that “sharp in your mouth” means that, if somebody comes over to you and asks you something, you should be able to spit out the answer immediately. You know what that's called?—“mastery.” That's what G-D wants—mastery.
The quickest and most efficient method, the best way, is to master the mishnayos because that is the entire oral law, then you do Gemara. You do mishnayos first, four mishnas a day, which will take three years. Then, since you know the entirety of mishnayos which is forty percent of Shas, you’re equipped to do the Gemara.
When you undertake Gemara, you do two blat a day, reducing what would have taken instead seven-and-a-half years to only four years because you're now studying two blat a day because you know forty percent of Shas. You'll finish in almost four years. 4+3=7. In seven years, you will be an adam gadol ad meod, one of the greatest talmidei chachamim of this generation! You will know mishnayos by heart, forty percent of Shas. You’ll have mastered every area; no area will be too strange to you. In seven years, you would have knowledge enough to join the beis din with Rav Chaim Ozer! That was Gutsman.
Yes, in seven years you could master the totality of oral law plus the Gemara. You will have done it correctly having laid down a foundation first.
By the way, I'm not the only one that says this. The Maharal is famous for this. He screams at people who don't know mishnayos first. He said that the current endeavor is suicide and he's right. That's why seventy percent of the guys that go to yeshiva, basically, will hardly remember anything. What kind of statistic is that? Learn Gemara one seder, two sedarim, but there should be time alloted to learn facts, to accumulate the knowledge of the oral law which is “Torah she’ba'al peh.” Mishnayos is the way to do it, especially today when there's many mishnayos written that bring down all the missing information that Rebbe left out. They bring Rishonim and Acharonim; it's tremendous what ArtScroll and the Besiyata Dishmaya have done. There are certain incredible mishnayos that would solve the problem.
And the bad news is we're losing guys because nobody remembers anything. Maybe they remember just a couple of ideas, but they have not mastered anything. We're losing a whole generation of people that don't remember anything so who is going to transmit the Torah? Do they realize this? Why is it that all the gedolim today are over 70, or 80, or 90-years-old? If you learn mishnayos beiyun and you memorize it, you will be an adam gadol, guaranteed, especially if the mishnayos is taught beiyun, in the right way.
People have no concept of what mishnayos could do for a guy. It would solve the problem and change the Jewish people. That's how pivotal it is. I want to connect this to the “Midrash Rabbah”, that it, actually, will end the galus; that's what it would do.
Participant: I think it would be changing our consciousness which you said has to happen.
R’Kessin: I'm showing you the way to do it. This is the solution and the proof of that is the “Midrash Rabbah.” But you don't even need that; it’s obvious! You do not learn advanced material without a preliminary foundation. When you want to build a building, you can't start with the fifth floor, right? You’ve got to dig a foundation first. Everything needs a foundation and, as far as I'm concerned, that's why colleges succeed with people getting certificates. I'm not saying colleges are perfect, but they're able to make a professional lawyer in three years, an accountant in two, an engineering in five, a doctor in seven. How do they do it? Do you know how much information is out there that a professional must know? They can do it because the curricula are structured and the foundational information is taught first. You don't learn advanced material first; that's in graduate school, not in undergraduate.
An example I always like to give is to imagine a guy wants to become an engineer but he doesn't want to go to undergraduate courses. He hasn’t the time or the money so, somehow, he makes his way into a graduate engineering program. After two weeks in that program, the professor gives a quiz and this guy who bipassed the undergraduate studies gets a measly score of “3.” He says to the professor, “I don't understand; I studied hard so how in the world did I get a “3”?
The professor says, “You're right; that's odd. How did you do as an undergraduate?”
The guy says, “Undergraduate? I never went to undergraduate school in engineering.”
The professor, incredulous, says “Are you crazy? This is graduate, advanced material. What are you doing here?”
Gemara is graduate school. The Gemara is a collection of sugyos. A sugyah is a problem-solving format that presupposes that you have a massive database and, if you don't, most of your time you don't know what's going on because: what are you doing in graduate school?
It's elementary and obvious but nobody seems to get it because the goal of yeshivas, unfortunately, is to learn, not to know; they would like to know, but that's incidental. The goal of yeshivas is to be a big lamden, lamdus, but what a mistake! You can be a phenomenal lamden if you know mishnayos because that's the database. It just requires logical thinking to solve a humongous problem in klal Yisroel that nobody seems to get, basically. There are some people who realize this, but their voices are not heard because everybody's entranced with lamdus in the Gemara, learning without knowing anything. What a mistake! What can I tell you? It's a tremendous mistake because the two disciplines could be done simultaneously. You want to learn Gemara?—okay! But, give some type of a seder, two hours or whatever, to master the mishnayos and commit it to memory.
That's why I love this story with Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman. A 10-year-old kid knew the entire shisha sidrei Mishnah, all of it! Obviously, he had a tremendous mind, finishing Shas at sixteen years of age, but he was able to do so because he already knew forty percent because he knew it by heart. At twenty-one years of age, he sat on the beis din with Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski! For sefardim, that's like sitting on the beis din of Rav Ovadia Yosef! It's the same thing! Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski was the gadol ha'dor, so imagine a sephardi kid sits on the beis din at 21-years-old with Rav Ovadia Yosef?! Wouldn't that be something, huh? It can be done if it were taught the right way with the right sequence.
It would pyramid. People would be astonished at the mastery that they acquired and it would spread because, in the end, what do you think a guy wants? He wants to know it. It's nice to have a lamdus, nice to be able to answer a RaMBaM or whatever, but it's more important to remember everything, to know, like it says,
“It should be sharp in your mind.” The Ribono Shel Olam says that; it's G-D talking. 'V’shinantam l’vanecha,” means you should know it. master it, have command of it. Who does that today? It's not even a goal, really. Yes, they're going to say well, I learned the beginning of the mesechta and then tried to finish the masechta, but the idea is not to learn it through the masechta all day. Learn mishnayos because it brings you the basic concepts without having to go through the debating, the back-and-forth.
Focus on the information, on the knowledge, on the facts. Later, you can focus on the debate itself, how the information was arrived at. You don't do that initially; that's graduate work. It shouldn't be done in the equivalent of elementary school. It, certainly, shouldn't be done all day and nothing else.
Tragically, many guys going to yeshiva will remember very, very little. They'll be turned off because there no hatzlacha—success. The greatest way to ensure continued success is to be successful, right? And then you get a sipuk, a tremendous satisfaction from your learning. Mastery will give you that satisfaction like nothing else can. It doesn't take that long.
Participant: So, the galus could end by learning mishanyos but if we just take on to start, we wouldn't have to wait those two years; we could beat it without going through the whole two years of mastering it?
R’Kessin: I'm not understanding your question. Is that a question you're asking?
Participant: Okay; it takes two years to learn the whole mishanyos, right?
R’Kessin: It could take one year depending upon how many mishnas you learn a day.
Participant: So, if we actually could get groups of people to commit to actually doing this, maybe we don't have to wait for them to have completed that one year.
R’Kessin: That, we don't know. We don't really know. It's very hard to change the system. They're all committed to lamdus, Gemara, which is fine, but it’s not fine unless you've mastered the mishnayos first. To not do so is a tremendous mistake; what can I tell you?
Okay, thank you for the opportunity to unravel what I feel about this unacceptable tragedy, for a guy to invest twenty years in yeshiva and hardly remember anything. It’s an unbelievable tragedy and it continues on a daily basis. In the end, we pay for that tragedy because many guys would have stayed longer or come out knowing an incredible amount of Torah in depth if only the system of learning were different.