Given: February 1st, 2021
PLEASE NOTE: Since the giving of this lecture, the rabbi’s website: torahthinking.org has created a new section entitled, “RAMAT”: Rapid Mastery of Torah. The information there speaks to the topic the rabbi discusses as a major portion of this lecture.
An introduction on the rabbi's RAMAT Project can be found here: https://www.torahthinking.org/mishnaic-map-ramat
There, you will find additional information about the concept, the hashkafa, of a “mishnaic map” and its precursor, RaMCHaL’s “Method.” You will find video, audio, transcriptions, and a place to express interest in this project.
There are certain important ideas which people would find surprising, ideas about what will actually happen at the time of Redemption. I wanted to mention some of them because they are so unusual that most people would say: I have never heard anything like this.
It's very important to know, especially for those people who really want to understand, what the geula—Redemption is, and what it's supposed to entail.
There is a very important pasuk—verse in Torah portion, “Nitzavim” in the book of, “Devarim” (Deuteronomy). The Torah alludes to a very important idea. Most people think that the geula is the end of Jews being driven out just like they were driven out in every exile. If you remember, the Jews were thrown out of every country in Europe, having to run away. The classic one is Spain when, in 1492, they drove the Jews out. It was either that or convert to Christianity. Of course, the Jews left and they went to Turkey, to Israel, later to America, and so on. Most anticipate that the Jews will come to Eretz Yisrael and, over there, the Ribono Shel Olam-the Master of the Universe will come and the geula will start in Eretz Yisrael.
But the truth is, that is not what happens and, as I will point out, the proof of that is Egypt.
The Ribono Shel Olam is not going to have all the Jews run away and come to Israel,
and, at that point, appear along with the Mashaich ben Yosef. It doesn't work that way.
What's going to happen as the pasuk--verse indicates, is indicated as G-D says, “Even if your exiles are at the end of heaven”--which is an interesting expression but—“misham”--from there “yekabetzcha”--G-D will gather you. G-D foretells how: your outcasts are spread all over the globe, actually, which is really what the situation is. In other words, the geula happens from within the exile itself! It's a very important idea. That's where it begins. Is not that you have to leave the exile, run away and come to Israel and then Mashiach ben Yosef comes to Israel. No. Mashiach ben Yosef appears in the exile itself! This is what we'll see. And the concept of that is that the Mashiach ben Yosef is born In, and lives in, the exile itself.
Since the last exile is called “Edom,” which today is America--that's the main Edom, Mashiach ben Yosef lives in America and will come or begin his actions of geula from America. We see that from the Gemara. The Gemara says that there was somebody talking to Eliyahu ha’Navi and asked him, “When is the mashiach coming?”
Eliyahu responds, “Why don't you ask him.” Really? The Gemara says that he was “b’sha’arei Romi”--in the gates of Rome. That's where the mashiach is.
Rome is, of course, Edom. The gates of Rome are, in a certain sense, probably New York; it's a port city. Why? Because the mashiach is born and lives in the very country that he will overthrow. Then, he will, in many ways, take the Jews out. That’s an important idea, that the Mashiach ben Yosef actually takes the Jews out of exile, not that they have to come out of an exile to Eretz Israel and, all of a sudden, he's there. No!
The word “yekabetzcha'' means G-D will gather you, all the outcasts, meaning you're not going to have a choice. G-D is going to come and, so to speak, “force” every Jew out of America compelling them to leave; we're not looking at a choice.
Remember, we are now looking at the concept of “b’ita”--in due time, entailing suffering, not “achishena”--accelerated time, relatively painless. The term “b’ita” indicates that the mashiach comes not due to the merit of the Jews having done the tikkun. He comes because that is the last possible moment, the time that G-D swore that He would bring the mashiach, would bring the Redemption itself. That's really what we're waiting for.
Two Concepts: “Yekabetzcha” and “Y’kachecha”
What is “yekabetzcha”? It bears explanation because two different expressions are used.
One expression is “yekabetzcha”--He will gather you, and then it says, “u’misham”--and from there, which means “from the exile.” Then it uses the term, “y’kachecha”--He will take you. So obviously there are two concepts here.
One concept is that the Jews have to be gathered, and the second is that the Jews have to be taken to G-D, taken to Him, “Adonai Elohecha.” (Deut.30:4)
What's the difference? There are two actions required. One is that the Jews have to be separated from the exile; something has to happen to the Jews when they are actually separated from wherever they are.
Once they are separated, G-D will “take them” which alludes to “yikach”--acquire them. This concept alludes to when a man marries a woman. Torah says “ki yikach ish ishah”--when a man will take a wife. The Torah uses the expression “yikach”--he will take. It's called the “zivug”--reunification; that's really what it is. A man “takes” a woman and a reunification takes place.
So, the second expression of “yikacheha'' means that G-D will take them to reunify with them.
This means that the Jews will experience a tremendous aliyah--elevation of tremendous spirituality.
So “yekabetzha” means He will gather you, will separate you from the exile itself and you will then be restored to being a distinct nation. Then, secondly, G-D will now unite with the Jews and give them an unbelievable elevation of kedusha--holiness. Then they will all leave.
What we see from this pasuk is that, from within the exile itself is the way the Jews are redeemed. People think the Redemption will start in Israel but, really, the Redemption starts in Edom, especially the tov shel Edom--the good part of Edom, as we will see. So, you don't have to purchase a ticket to Israel, don't have to travel there; if you stay in America, you will experience the Redemption. Whatever happens will be so compelling that all the Jews will leave. It's not a matter of somebody saying: well, I want to stick around. No, that won't be an option. That's what “yekabetzcha” means, He will gather you, He will take you.
Another very important idea which most people never heard of is that: wait a minute, G-D is not going to enter America and yank the Jews out?--no, because what He wants is that the Jews be elevated, be holy. As a result of that, they will then be on a much greater level to receive the Mashiach ben Yosef.
Two Tekufot--Stages in the Revelation of Mashiach ben Yosef.
There are two periods of time in the life of Mashiach ben Yosef.
One is when he is tortured, in a state of degradation, and that's part of his yisurim--suffering. He's degraded in the sense that he's an individual that has incredible spiritual potential but all of it is blocked and he realizes that there's something wrong because he sees other people as being successful in their spiritual aspirations but he, himself, cannot muster it, cannot realize his potential. This produces an enormous amount of suffering.
That suffering that he experiences, his degradation, is part of the kaparah--atonement that the Jews need to leave the exile.
That's the first tekufa, the first stage in the life of Mashiach ben Yosef, a stage in which he is, in a figurative sense, a prisoner because he cannot expand, extend or actualize his potential. The second stage is when he is released from that prison. Whatever has been keeping him bound ends and he can begin to “grow.” He receives a powerful siyata d’shmaya--Divine assistance to grow and, because of that, he's able to grow to an unbelievable level.
A midrash--exegetical commentary says what that level is. In a pasuk--verse from “Yeshayahu,” it states, “hine yaskil avdi”--behold my servant will grow wise. Then it provides three expressions of “growth”: v’yarum--prosper, v’nisa--be exalted, and v’gova me’od--shall be elevated.
The midrash asks why there are three expressions of “growth.” What does it mean: “my servant will grow wise”?
The targum says that “malka meshicha” refers to the mashiach himself. “Grow wise” is a very important idea; haskil, haskalah refer to “intellectualism” or “wisdom.” The essential notion of the Mashiach ben Yosef’s disability, that he cannot grow in holiness, is because he is being hindered, limited intellectually. This indicates that he cannot learn Torah and there are reasons for that.
But the fact that he remains ignorant is the essential idea of what he must endure.
That's why it says, “my servant will grow wise.” It doesn't say “behold my servant will become holy.” That's what you would think but it says, “He will grow wise” because, suddenly, somebody who’s had tremendous difficulties in learning and “growing” through Torah will be freed from those impediments to become amazingly successful in haskala--knowledge.
Since he grows in knowledge, the midrash expresses how great his growth will be.
When “he's freed from prison,” in a figurative sense, it’s like the door of a prison cell opens and he can walk out; that is called the “pekida.” When the Mashiach ben Yosef is released from his bondage to ignorance, that is the pekida.
But then the next stage is when he grows.
The midrash says there are three expressions of this in the pasuk, in the writings of Yeshayahu, the prophet. The midrash asks: what are these stages of growth?
The midrash answers that the first expression is indicated with the word, ”v’yorum”--he will be exalted. This indicates that he will be greater in Torah than Avraham Avinu. Keep in mind that we don't really know who Avraham Avinu was, the extent of his greatness. Obviously, he was incredible. Certainly, his resolve to offer to sacrifice his son despite every indication that G-D was asking him to do something that appeared irrational, is one indicator of his spiritual greatness. But this level of greatness is Mashiach ben Yosef. Imagine what that is? Imagine being in the same room with Avraham Avinu!
Then the midrash offers the second expression of growth, “v’nissa”--he will be uplifted.
The midrash indicates a quality that is very hard to believe, that he will be greater in knowledge, and therefore holier, than Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu is unique. We have no conception who he really was in holiness, in prophetic capability. Chazal--sages describe him as “chatzi ish, chatzi Elohim”-- half man, half divine. He came down from Sinai, his face shining, radiant, so much so that you couldn't look at his face because kedusha--holiness emanated from his head. We're looking here, again, at the concept of chochma--knowledge. Moshe Rabbeinu, at that point, almost was Mashiach ben Yosef. Ultimately, h wasn't because Klal Yisrael, the Jewish people, sinned by making the Golden Calf. But, notwithstanding that, he had achieved unbelievable knowledge and awe-inspiring holiness.
The third expression used by the midrash is “v’govah”--greater, invoking a comparison to that of malachim--angels. It’s astounding to consider a person, a human being, that actually comes across as greater than an angel. Imagine seeing Gavriel or Michael or Raphael, or any of these malachim among us! Astounding!
Mashiach ben Yosef will be an individual that will have achieved a height greater than all these.
Mem-Tet-Sha’arei-Tumah--the 49th Gate of Defilement
The problem the mashiach will encounter in coming to a land, let's say America, is that nobody knows anything; eleven million Jews are “gone.” They don't do mitzvos--commandments. Many of them don't even know they're Jews, and the assimilation rate is terrible and, as for intermarriage rate, eight out of ten Jews in America are intermarried.
So, how can you take this type of person and bring him to a country like America where everybody is, basically, in the mem-tet shaarei tumah 49th gate/level of impurity? That's really what America is. America has now become the land of the “49 level” of immorality and tumah. America is fundamentally a land of several characteristics which makes it as such.
The first idea is: America has now become a country which is completely accessible to inclinations toward homosexuality, same-sex marriages and so on. There are no restrictions anymore. They've done away with the concept of biological gender and now you decide what you would like to be. You want to be a man?--no problem. You want to be a woman?--no problem. America has completely divorced itself from nature’s dictates, as G-D intends, to engage in behaviors and encourage beliefs that, according to the Torah, justify chayav misa--deserving of death. We're talking about grievous immorality in America.
The second thing which characterizes America at that tenuous level of tumah is the extent to which it is steeped in materialism and pleasure. Basically, that's what America is all about, how to get ahead in life, to make as much money as possible, to live “the good life,” a comfortable life, often to excess. How much spirituality is really in America?--not much.
What America has become, in many ways, is what Egypt was. Egypt was also at the level of mem-tet shaarei tumah, a grossly immoral place. Egypt was probably the greatest nation on earth in terms of their immersion in materialism, so that's what America is. Imagine this individual, Mashiach ben Yosef, coming to the Jews and the Jews are a million miles away from spirituality.
Elevating the Jews While in Exile
Well, guess what! G-D will not allow that, won't allow a person of mashiach’s stature to come to His people, His children, in such a degraded state. So, G-D will elevate them, either before the mashiach comes or while the mashiach is in “stage one.” This means that the mashiach himself, even if he's released, will not be anywhere near his potential of greatness, what he will eventually become.
So, it comes out that the Mashiach ben Yosef, even after he's released, which is really the “hatchalat geula”--the beginning of Redemption, he himself appears undifferentiated from the average person. That’s because he himself has to grow. In that situation, he will have to elevate the Jews in America.
The question is: how can he do it? So, it's unknown exactly how that will happen, but it is generally known how it could come about. We find, in a very peculiar midrash which, when you look at it, most people would react with: huh? What is this supposed to mean?
It’s in midrash “Rabbah,” based on parshas --Torah portion: “Tzav,” in the third section. It reads, “omer rebbe Huna,”--rebbe Huna says, “ein hagaluyos halalu nikbatzot”---these exiles will not be gathered which means ‘be redeemed,’ ”ela”--unless “meshanen mishnayos”--there is learning of mishnayos! That's incredible! It doesn't even say “Gemara.”
It is the learning of mishnayos that will be the merit that allows the Jews to “be gathered” and leave the exile. And, by the way, “nikbatzot”--being gathered is the same concept as the other form of that word “yekabetzcha”--(I) will gather you.
The question is: what does that mean? In order for the Jews to leave the exile, they have to engage in the study of mishnayos? It's an incredible concept! --fine. G-D wants them to be talmid chachamim--scholars, to be elevated in terms of knowing Torah and then the messiah can begin, with these learners, to grow.
What is the meaning of “mishnayos”? The midrash says something which is very important.
Types of Mitzvot
There are two types of mitzvos.
The first type is a mitzvah where you get a reward, for instance, if you observe Shabbat. If you put a mezuzah on your doorpost, you are rewarded for the performance of putting a mezuzah on the doorpost. That's one type of mitzvah, for which the reward is gleaned from a certain type of performance.
When you perform a mitzvah, that mitzvah is connected to a sefira, a Divine energy, a Divine force. When you do a mitzvah, the illumination associated with that Divine force is revealed to you but not at the moment that you do the mitzvah. It is not apparent because the zohama--impurity (introduced into Creation by adam ha’rishon’s sin) prevents it but, in the future, when the mashiach comes, all the mitzvos that you performed, the illumination of all the different sefiros that you brought forth by doing the mitzvah, will all be revealed to you. That's a very important idea. You will be privy to the illumination which that mitzvah caused, triggered within the sefiros themselves. That’s one type of mitzvah.
But there's a second type of mitzvah.
That’s learning Torah. Exactly! When a person learns Torah, that is a mitzvah, so not only does the person acquire knowledge, the acquisition of knowledge itself is a mitzvah! That’s fine,
but the midrash says something very interesting. It says that, when you learn Torah, not only is the performance of learning the Torah making you more knowledgeable, the subject matter that you’re learning about automatically gives you, prepares to give you, the same illumination as if you had done the mitzvah you’re learning about!
Imagine you're learning the laws of Shabbat, what's permitted, what's not permitted, rules about making kiddush, everything. You get a mitzvah of talmud--learning Torah and, besides that, you’re learning of the Torah has a second dimension; G-D considers it as though you are observing the Shabbat even though you may not be doing that. Therefore, to learn Torah about any mitzvah not only fulfills the mitzvah of learning Torah, it also fulfills the observance of that mitzvah you learned about! Because of this, it is now possible to fulfill the mitzvos of both learning and observing the entire Torah.
G-D says to Avraham Avinu by the “covenant between the pieces” when He made the agreement with him, “Because you made the agreement with Me, I'm going to give the Jewish people, your descendants, a mitzvah of korbanot--sacrifices.” The concept of the beis ha’mikdash--Holy Temple where different sacrifices can be brought is that mitzvah. G-D could say: I'm going to give the Jews that as a reward for what you have done.
Avraham Avinu could have thought: wait a minute! That's great but that's only good when the beis ha’mikdash is standing. What happens after the churban, after the destruction of the beit hamikdash? Obviously, if the Temple is not standing, that's the end of the mitzvah, of korbanot, and he's right. There are many mitzvos today which are not applicable. All the mitzvos of tuma v’tahara--purity, impurities--gone; all the Temple mitzvos are gone, so what can we do?
G-D says something fascinating, that when the Jews learn about korbanos, even after the Temple’s destruction, He will consider it as though the learning itself is the offering. G-D says: when they learn about ‘korban khattat’--sin offerings for sins committed be’shogeg--inadvertently, it is to be as if they brought the sacrifice.
In the End of Time, you won't have to bring the sin offerings for all the sins you've done. What happens, because you've learned about them, G-D considers it as if you actually brought them. That’s the reason why, at the beginning of shacharit--morning prayer we say the avodah--service which has the laws of the korbanos, if you ever notice. Why?--because by saying it, reading it, learning it as you say it, it is as good as having offered it. G-D told this to Avraham.
This midrash shows you that this is an incredible dimension of learning Torah.So, it comes out that, if you learn the entire Torah, it will be considered as if you have done the entire Torah. Where is the entire Torah? The answer is: the mishnayos! The Mishnah is the oral law; the totality of the Mishna is the totality of the Torah she’be’al peh--oral law. There is the Torah she’b’chtav--written Torah which is, of course, the chumash--5 Books of Moses.
As we know, there are thousands of details that are not in the written law but are all part of the oral law which is the mishnahyos and the Gemara. By learning all the mishnayos, it is considered as if you could master the totality of the mishnayos which is the totality of the taryag mitzvos--613 commandments. That's really what the mishnayos deal with and, therefore, if that's the case, then that's what that excerpt means, that G-D intends to elevate the Jews before the Mashiach ben Yosef comes in his stage-two level. This is how G-D will do it. He will prompt the Jews to learn the mishnayos and, through that, they will, at once, be given the reward of learning Torah and, at the same time, be given the reward of doing the mitzvos! They will have elevated themselves through the mishnayos and, because they will have been be elevated, the geula--Redemption can start.
See the logic? Now you understand why you need the merit of mishnayos to leave the exile, in order for Redemption to happen. The mishnayos, basically, are the only way that you can learn the entire Torah and “perform” 613 commandments. We see an amazing thing, how G-D can, and will, elevate the Jews at the end, the time of Redemption.
That's what this midrash alludes to, which is a very important idea.
Many people could say that here are a lot of mishnayos. There are 4,192 in the entire Shas-- meaning the entire Gemara including the commentaries in the Mishnah done in the Land of Israel and Babylonia. The average number of halachos--laws in each mishna (because a mishna is a paragraph of halachos, a collection of halachos, arranged in a paragraph) is approximately eight. If there are 4,192 mishnayos, and each one has eight halachos, 8 x 4,192 mishnayos is an enormous amount--let's say about 33,000 halachos.
You may reasonably ask how in the world anybody can learn--certainly in a short amount of time until Redemption which is not counted in many years--all mishnayos so quickly.
Keep in mind that a mishna is an abridged version of halachos. Rebbe Ha’Nasi wrote, not a textbook, but a record of the Oral Law because there was no printing then. Printing came into being, I think, around 1450 by Gutenberg. Before that, books were a very rare item. Why?--because in order to have a book you'd have to have what's called a “manuscript” a written version. How many times can people write something out? Today books can be published by the millions. Before the printing press was invented, obviously, how many sets of mishnayos could there have been if you couldn't print. The answer is, not many. Therefore, what Rebbe had to do was condense the mishnayos, leaving out an enormous amount of material.
Could you imagine if the Rebbe Ha’Nasi who wrote the mishnayos had filled out all the halachos that were necessary, the necessary background information of each mishna? There would probably be close to a half a million instead of 1,492. If that were the case, there would be only one set in existence which, obviously, cannot be.
Therefore, Rebbe abridged the mishna. What would number well over 100,000 different yedios--ideas, over 100,000 halachos, even though what's written down is only about 33,000 halachos. The Mishna, when you add everything that's left out because there was no printing, you're looking at, perhaps, 200,000 halachos. That's an enormous amount of missing material.
How do people learn it? Seems that it would take years but there is a way and I discovered it many years ago. It's a “map.” Let’s say it’s a document which has “geographical” points. For example, let’s say you have a map of New Jersey which has all the geographical points of the state including rivers, streets, neighborhoods, each city and town. But, most important is that it also reveals the relationship between the points, the distances. Beyond these, it also reveals a third feature: orientation. it shows: north, south, east or west of any given point. When you look at a map, it's amazing how much information is contained therein.
In addition, you can study and learn from a map because it's all incredibly organized. Even though it has so many different pieces of information you can gather it quickly.
Travelling on the New York subway, you can see that each car has a map of the entire subway system with over 550 subway stations. Imagine 550 subway stations in the subway system of NY and, as I was looking at the map, I said to myself: how amazing that the designers were able to include 550 stations and indicate the tracks that lead from one station to another, and it’s all on one piece of paper that’s three feet by four feet. That's amazing! How could they do it? The secret is in its organization, its structure, enabling a traveler to see the relationship that every station has to every other one, to all the different stops, to the configuration of streets, etc.
A map is kind of secret instrument because it is able to organize material, impose structure of thousands of pieces of information into one diagram, one image. Once you have it all organized as one image, you could study the whole map efficiently. If that map were given to you, instead, as pieces of a puzzle, it would take you much longer to figure it out because you have a fragmented view.
Imagine I gave you a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and told you to put it together. What's the first thing you're going to ask for?---the box it came in. Why? The box has a picture of the entirety of the puzzle as it is meant to look when assembled. The picture on the box is really a map. It's a map, an image, not so different from a geographical one. Once you see the map which is the totality of the structure, you're able to put it together quickly.
Same idea with mishnayos. Organized as maps, each masecheta--let's say masechet brachos-- you could learn all the information in “Brachot,” in a very short amount of time because it's not being presented to you as fragments but as a totality! You can garner the scope of the landscape. Imagine climbing Mount Everest which is 29,000 feet. From that height, you could look down into the valley and see everything because, from your perspective, you're on top of everything, able to see all the hills, the valleys, the towns, everything from that vantage point.
That's the concept of a map, where everything is organized and structured.
Mastery in 2-3 Years
So, there exists a way to do this. Were you to learn mishnayos with this mapped system, you could finish the learning the totality of the oral law in 2-3 years instead of 20!
In fact, it could take anyone and make him into a great talmid chacham--accomplished scholar through the mishnayos organized as a “mishnaic map. It would revolutionize Torah education, making any kid a master of the Oral Law in two or three years.
G-D wants to elevate the Jews and the way He's going to do it is by introducing them to mishnayos. Once they are elevated, they will be on the spiritual level sufficient to redeem them.
These are very important ideas because they describe in detail what is going to happen in America, perhaps even in Europe, and the steps within the Redemption itself.
Q & A
Participant: I heard in another class that you, yourself, are working on these maps. Is that true?
Participant: I knew it. G-D bless and thank G-D! Beautiful! How are you planning to distribute the map?
R’Kessin: That's a very good question. Eventually, when it can be completed, whatever it would take, it would be interesting to open a yeshiva.
Gemara is an advanced text that deals with advanced halachos and it problem-solving. That's what the Gemara is about. It takes a problem, let's say a contradiction between two mishnayos, and tries to solve it. That's called a “sugya.” The problem is that, before you learn the Gemara, you really need to have a massive database of information because what you're really learning is advanced material. The accompanying problem is that the study of mishnayos is hardly ever taught.
It's taught for one year to nine-year-old kids and then, after that, it's all Gemara. That would be fine if a person were prepared to learn an advanced text, but the problem is that most kids are not prepared. As a result of that, how much Mishna do they learn? Maybe they're looking to learn one masechta. They don't learn the 4,192 mishnayos. If they did, they would be awesome.
Let me tell you an interesting story, okay?
Have you heard of Paysach Krohn? He's a well-known speaker. He once wrote a fascinating story. He said it happened many, many years ago. He's a mohel (one who performs ritual circumcisions). He wanted to meet Rav Yacob Kamenetsky who was one of the gedolim--prominent rabbis in America during the 60’s-80’s. He wanted to ask him different questions about mila--circumcision.
He also wanted to ask him something else. He said he had a sister who was “in shidduchim”--looking for a marriage partner. He wanted to ask Rav Yaakov--who was also a rosh Yeshiva, the head of the academy Torah V’da’at, if he knows a good marriage prospect for his sister. So, he met him and talked to him about halakhos and circumcision and, finally, told him about his sister looking for a good shidduch and could he recommend a great guy? That's what he obviously meant, someone studying in Torah V’da’at.
Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky answered him expressing that it was too bad because the person that he could have recommended just got engaged, a top guy, but now engaged; so, obviously, it's too late.
Paysach Krohn wrote the following. He responded to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky with: okay, I understand, but why do you call him the “top guy”? What is it about him, this bochur, that you consider him the top guy? It's a very interesting question; he wanted to know by what criteria Rav Kamenetsky considered someone a “top guy.”
What does the Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky tell him? It’s an incredible concept which will instantly elucidate what I’m speaking about. The rav explained that his guy can be considered a “top guy” in the yeshiva! He was young, at that time 19 or 20 but, when he was a youngster, his father learned with him, taught his child the entire shisha sidrei Mishna--six orders of the Mishna--the entire mishnayos, all 4,192. This guy remembered it because he reviewed it many times and that gave him an unbelievable edge among all the other guys.
Do you hear what he said? It’s a very important idea! In order to be successful you have to have sequence, preparation. You cannot learn advanced material before you learn the basic information and even if you have the basic information, you have to accumulate a tremendous amount of it!
If somebody wants to master engineering, he can't simply take courses or read journals in engineering. You need to learn the basics of physics and mathematics and, maybe, chemistry. You have to learn the basics first. Once you have the basics, you can go into the advanced textbooks.
Imagine a guy who wants to go to law school but doesn't have the money and law school requires three years. So, he somehow makes his way into third year law school, skipping two years. He gets into third-year law school and the professor gives a quiz at the end of two weeks. The guy takes the quiz and he scores only “5” which is terrible. He tells the professor that he doesn’t understand why he did so poorly, that he studied for this test. T
The professor agrees and thinks it odd and asks him how he did in his first two years of law school, inferring this was his third year.
“What? He exclaimed. “i didn’t attend the first two years of law school.”
The professor says, “Are you crazy? You need the preparation, the basic information first! Third year law school is considered ‘advanced.’ That's why you got ‘5’.”
One of the main reasons why people who go to a yeshiva find it so difficult is because they are totally unprepared lacking a basic database of knowledge. Where do you find this database? You find it in the Mishna. That's why it says in “Pirkei Avot,” perek hey--5th portion (I think it's Mishna 21) “bachamisha l’mikra”--at five years of age, you learn Tanach. “B’esser l’mishna”--at 10-years-old, the Mishnah. Then, “chamesh assara l’gemara”-- at 15-years-old, the Gemara.
What's lacking is sequential learning.
That's why it would be great to have a yeshiva that would emphasize the total learning of mishnayos in its chiyuni--essential depth, not superficially; and meanwhile you could also learn Gemara. But there has to be a seder--order. There has to be a time period in the yeshiva which is dedicated to learning the database, the totality of Torah she’b’al peh--Oral Law which is the mishnayos. In two years, using such maps, you can create a phenomenal talmid chacham in two years, and he would know over 100,000 halachos. Could you imagine learning Gemara after knowing this!
So, with a way to master the entire oral law quickly and efficiently and, based on the midrash that learning is akin to doing, it’s possible to earn stupendous merit.
The secret of somebody becoming an incredible talmid chacham, the secret of that success, is to learn the Mishna in depth first. Then, with the “mishnaic map” it takes only two-three years. Imagine a guy goes to high school and, at the age of 13 or 14, he finishes the whole mishnayos and--right then and there--he's a magnificent talmid chacham.
Participant: Why aren't you spreading this to yeshivot? Why only to one yeshiva?
R’Kessin: Well, that's a good question.
Participant: Why limit it to only opening one? Why not put it into publications and go to Artscroll?
R’Kessin: That's excellent thinking. My intent is, once it's complete, to disseminate it not only in yeshivos but to disseminate it online. One guy, using internet, can teach a million people at one time, sure. But the beauty of it is the tremendous speed one can learn it because it's so beautifully organized. Imagine this type of curriculum being available on the internet, or one person going to a city and teaching hilchos Shabbos in one month and sending groups of fifty people to different places to teach in real time, live, because then you can ask questions and so on.
In many ways it would revolutionize Torah, but do you know what else it would do?
Participant: When are you going to finish it?
R’Kessin: Well, it takes time because there's an enormous amount of thinking to do it, but imagine what it does for a baal teshuva--someone returning to orthodoxy. We know that somebody would do teshuva--return and then he wants to become a baal teshuva--master of the return. Basically. he can never overcome the fact that he'd spent so many years not learning. Anybody who is a baal teshuva is doomed to being an am ha’aretz--ignoramus because he can't… how much time can he put into it? He's got to spend time with his wife, his family, his job, and everything else that's going on in his life. He can't sit down for thirty-five years and begin to learn because, right now, it takes thirty-five years to know your stuff.
Even through Daf Yomi you may need seven-and-a-half years and you don't know it after you finish. How could you know anything when you learn a blot in 45 minutes? To be a great talmid chacham takes 30-35 years, but what happens if it could be done in two! Imagine what that would mean, this type of curriculum being taught in real life by trained “ambassadors,” in many shuls, synagogues and yeshivos and also to ba’alei teshuva. That means you could take a 30-year-old baal teshuva who knows nothing and make him into he an incredible talmud chacham--not in thirty-five years--but in two! There are hundreds of thousands of ba’alei teshuva who are, in many ways, doomed would it not be for this map concept. Going the standard way could not be an option for them.
The way to do it is not the standard way. It requires the acquisition of a massive database of the entire Oral Law and that's the mishnayot taught in depth. Imagine all these yeshivos that deal with ba’alei teshuva--many of them in Israel--Lev L'Achim and so on.
Participant: Do you think that this map that you're doing could be the thing that the midrash means, to learn the Mishnah…. but how else could we learn all the Mishnah and elevate ourselves by the time mashiach comes; it's impossible for all am Yisrael to do that.
R’Kessin: What you're saying is very interesting; it's hard…Look, if that were true, that would assign me a role in the actual messianic process.
Participant: That's why I keep saying you're Mashiach ben Yosef.
Rabbi Kessin: No, no, no, no, no, no! Don't say that!
Participant: Nobody knows.
R’Kessin: The fact that you have a midrash that says that about mishnayos is really uncanny. I was shocked when i saw that midrash; you can’t imagine! He actually ties the geula to mishnayos, which is unheard of! Right now, I don't think in those terms. I think only in terms of what it would take to get a massive proportion of Jews to become scholars in such a short amount of time. That's what the map would do.
Participant: Did you complete any of the masechtot? Are any of them are ready?
R’Kessin: Well, there are different masechtot in different stages.
Participant: Did you finish any so you can start spreading the word of the Lord?
Rabbi Kessin: The “word of the Lord”--that's interesting. It's hard to say because I try to make sure that it's really perfect, that it will deliver what it says because I only have one chance to demonstrate it. But the key idea is that this is a way that, in today's time, an average kid could become an unbelievable talmid chacham because he would know, in two years, over 100,000 yedios--foundational ideas of Torah. Could you imagine what that would mean? imagine your kid comes home and he could rattle off 4,192 mishnayos over 100,000 halachos!
The beauty of a map, by the way, is that it is visual, and the mind loves to know visual information because that's the greatest thing that the mind wants. It wants to see a picture and it remembers something arranged as a picture. It’s much greater than if it is just text or audio. It would seem to be a viable method for accomplishing the astronomically difficult in an efficient way, and quickly.
Participant: Rabbi, I think this is something big!
R’Kessin: Yes, probably.
Participant: Very proud to know you.
R’Kessin: Well, whatever….because we are losing Jews left and right. We are losing them because most people, many people, when they try to learn Gemara, they fail because they don't realize they're learning an advanced text before knowing the database or the introductory ideas that you have to know. It's like any chochma--wisdom; you cannot read a journal in cardiology if you don't know anything about medicine.
When you go to medical school, first you learn anatomy, then physiology, then pathology and so on. Only later can you go into a hospital and examine and treat patients. You can't learn advanced material first.
Besides all this, the Gemara is fragmented, which is an entirely different discussion and which makes the learning much more difficult. Just remember the story with Rav Yakov Kamenetsky. That's why this kid who got engaged was a top guy in yeshiva, because his father taught him the entire mishnayos. Rabbi Yaakov said that this gave him an unbelievable advantage over everybody else. Any portion that he would learn in Shas, he knew. He knew the underlying ideas of everything. Isn't that amazing!?
Participant: Now the shuls are having, every night, men of all ages coming to learn Gemara. This would be ideal for them to learn in the way you describe.
R’Kessin: Yes, it would be. Gemara is obviously extremely important, no question. But there's a concept called “sequential” and that's what we need to understand. Nobody is observing the sequence. You cannot learn advanced material before you know the preparatory, basic, core information. How could you do that? “That's elementary,” as they say. You can learn Gemara but its study must have preparation and, even if you want to learn Gemara, you have to have a specific time period set aside to learn the entire Torah--all of it--the Torah she’be’al peh--Oral Law and mishnais chiyuni--Mishna in depth. It requires the classic text.
Participant: You were saying that when we do a mitzvah a sefira--Divine force is connected to it and the nature of that force won't be revealed to us until mashiach comes.
R’Kessin: Yes. That's right.
Participant: So, is that like when they say that, when mashiach comes, people will be on different levels and will be connected to Ha’Shem differently according to what we do in this world?
Participant: Is this because each mitzvah has a different illumination, a different level?
Participant: … and we will be able to see more in the next world through these Illuminations?
R’Kessin: Yes. Each mitzvah has its own illumination of the sefiros and that is, by the way, one of the reasons why G-D wants the Jews to learn mishnayos. He wants all the Jews to receive all the illuminations of the sefiros. If they learn mishnayos, they will receive all of the illuminations because, not only will they have learned the entire Torah, they will have done the entirety of the mitzvos.
Since a person will receive the illuminations only via what he learned and practiced, G-D wants every Jew to learn to be able to receive the illumination of the totality of all the sefiros. That’s another reason why mastery of mishnayos is so important.
Participant: So, G-D is not going to bring the mashiach until we are elevated by learning more mishnayos?
R’Kessin: Yes, correct. I hold that's the rehabilitation. G-D wants to rehabilitate the Jews. When somebody's sick, for instance, in a hospital, he can't just go from the hospital to his house without a program, instructions, for further recuperation or he’s got to go to rehabilitation i.e. physical therapy, whatever that therapy encompasses Same idea here. You can't take a people that know nothing, never did mitzvos--which is the majority of the Jews today--and expose them to an incredible kedusha--holiness which is the Light of the sefiros; it'll kill them.
Participant: So then how do we get to them?
R’Kessin: That's what I'm saying…
Participant: That's where your map fits in; I understand.
R’Kessin: Well, the map could solve that problem, that is true, yes. But the main idea is that the midrash lays down the foundation of the whole concept, that learning mishnayos is critical for the geula. That's what he says, which is amazing. He doesn't say this regarding Gemara.
Participant: How do you get to those people that know nothing?
R’Kessin: I'll tell you. It says in “Yoel” ch.3, that, at the End of Time, G-D says :”V’yihiyeh acharei chen, eshpoch et ruchi al kol basar”--at the End of Time, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. It's really a combination of two things. First, G-D is “pouring out His Spirit” which gets everybody enthusiastic. In the “Navi,” the book of the Prophets it says, “And on that day will there be a famine and a thirst.” Torah says it will not be a famine for food, for bread--lechem, nor for drink. It will be a famine to know the word of G-D. We don't know how that's going to happen; but something's going to happen that, all of a sudden, everybody's going to want to learn Torah. That’s the second thing,
It's going to happen miraculously. We're not dealing here with an ordinary circumstance. On that day, there will be an unbelievable hunger to know the word of G-D. The way it's going to happen is based on what G-D says about how “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” meaning the phenomenon is beyond teva--nature. There will enter into the world a tremendous spiritual yearning and, instantly, everybody's going to become interested in spirituality.
There is a way to implement it. You know how? I'll tell you how.
It’s called the “pyramid method.”
What is the pyramid method? A pyramid is what begins at a point on the top and then spreads down on four sides. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of Jews that are ba’alei teshuva and almost all of them know very little--like I said--because they cannot make up for the lost time. But what happens if you're able to teach all of these people mishnayos and each one of them, after even a half a year will know an incredible amount? Guess what! That means, you will have introduced a whole different mastery of the Oral Law to hundreds of thousands of ba’alei teshuva. Then, what?
Chabad Lubavitch has four thousand shluchim, four thousand agents, around the world. How do they teach their wards? They don't because they don't know how. But, imagine each one has a shul, a Jewish center and, connected to each can be 50, or even 10, or 100 Jews. Imagine if you recruited Lubavitch locations where this entire curriculum could be brought to the entire Lubavitch movement! That means, automatically, you would have hundreds of thousands of Jews experiencing the totality of Torah in 2-3 years.
Then you have an organization in Israel called “Lev L’Achim” which has thousands of people that they teach--thousands.
Then you have an organization called “Arachim” that deals with ba’alei teshuva. They have thousands and thousands of people, but their problem is how to make of them talmidei chachamim.
There are enough ba’alei teshuva yeshivos, enough people who are connected with Jews--not all Jews--but hundreds of thousands of Jews that are dying to become talmidei chachamim.
Now imagine if you are able to make them talmidei chachamim with the help of a mishnaic map so that, very quickly, you’d have half a million Jews that are unbelievably brilliant scholars!
Then they themselves would go and speak to their friends and it proliferates like a pyramid because there are enough people now to satisfy the requirement of Jews able to interest other Jews. If all these prospective students perceive that it takes thirty-five years to become learned, they become turned off. What are they going to tell a guy--come with me and learn? How can I learn? How many years will it take--thirty-five? Who's going to invest thirty-five years in any field?
But what happens if there was a way to do it in just a couple of years and there are enough people out there that would be dying to know the Torah, are already out there waiting, but there's no solution to the problem of time and opportunity?
By starting with what you have now and building on that, those 3,4,5 hundred-thousand Jews would multiply and, together with the “eshpoch et ruchi al kol bassar,” when G-D pours forth His Spirit, that is what the Redemption is about. Then, the wherewithal of every Jew to learn and become a masterful scholar will subject them to the illumination of every sefira. Could you imagine what that would do for the Jewish people? This is how you could do it.
Participant: Are any of them are completed?
R’Kessin: Well, some of them are near completion. But you have to remember:
the problem is I'm a loner. I'm the only guy doing it because, believe it or not, most people cannot synthesize, cannot organize, especially when it comes to knowledge.
People are taught to analyze. Analysis means to break down an idea into its parts. People can do that; they're taught analysis, but people are not taught synthesis which is to put things together.
What happens if i give you a detail and I tell you to figure out the general principle? Most people are lost. They cannot reverse the process of analysis because they are not trained to do it. Basically, I am the only one doing it. For me to do it, I need a certain amount of...it's like you need a team to be able to do it.
Participant: Where are you going to find the members of the team?
R’Kessin: I have no problem finding people. The real problem is money, funding, because you have to pay people. That's the real problem--funding.
Participant: How much do you need?
R’Kessin: How much funding would I need? It's an interesting question. It would be an entire setup, a team of people, different people at different stages being involved. It's like ArtScroll. Every time ArtScroll comes out, there are fifty people involved in producing one Gemara. I don't know if you know that. We think that ArtScroll comes out, no big deal. I once spoke to them. It is a whole team of guys: editors, coordinators, proofreaders, writers and so on. They could have a team of fifty guys working on one Gemara. Therefore, obviously, it's a funding problem. I’m talking about an ArtScroll operation that becomes a “translation” company but not in the classical sense. I'm talking about revamping and creating a textbook based on mishnayos that looks like a map and that takes time.
Participant: Did you go to other rabbis to help you?
R’Kessin: Unfortunately, that does not help. Look, I don't want to speak in any negative way but most people don't understand the problem in yeshivos and then they tend to stick to what's called the “mesorah,” which they think is the tradition. People think that the best way, the traditional way, is to learn Gemara all day long. What I say is: it's certainly not. Look how many people don't know what's going on in a yeshiva, how many years a guy can spend in a yeshiva, can be in a yeshiva for twenty years and he comes out hardly knowing anything. Why? Why is it that a college can produce an engineer in five years?
Participant: How they teach the kids, that's the problem. if the teachers don't know it, how are they going to transmit it to the kids?
R’Kessin: Exactly. That's part of the problem. The text that they're learning is misplaced, ill-conceived, should not be in textual form for a ten-year-old kid.
Participant: What's your number and what money is necessary to finish this project?
R’Kessin: To be realistic, I would imagine it requires several hundred thousand dollars because you have to pay people's salaries and then you need equipment, a work-place, and so on. The biggest expense is probably people's salaries.
ArtScrolI--I once asked--has seventy-three volumes of the ArtScroll “Shas,” and each volume costs $250,000 to produce. I know because I once asked one of the heads of ArtScroll. I was shocked. Each volume--not Gemara--each volume, and some Gemara have more than one volume, like “Shabbat” has four volumes--and each one costs $250,000. And know why; it’s because they have to pay salaries. They are able to do that.
It all happened in 1976. Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, who I knew personally, had this idea to translate the Gemara, Shas. He went to Columbus, Ohio and he met Mr. Schottenstein. He presented the idea to Mr Schottenstein who, by the way, obviously, is a multi-multi-millionaire. He presented the idea and, after listening to Zlotowitz, said something akin to: well rabbi it sounds like a very interesting idea but i don't really think i would go for it. So, what did he do?
He told him, “okay”and thanked him for his time. Zlotowitz left, got into a taxi and was on his way to the airport to return to New York when, on the way back to the airport he gets a call from--you guessed it-- Schottenstein. Schottenstein says: you're on your way to the airport?
I rethought the idea and I'd like to speak more about it.
Zlotowitz turned around and went back to the office and convinced Jerome Schottenstein to do the Schottenstein Shas, 73 volumes. What did Meir Zlotowitz ask him for knowing what it would cost for such a major, major project? Shottenstein gave him a check for 15 million dollars and he was able to produce a great deal of the project. Once he had it going, other people came on board. That’s how he was able to get the funding and start ArtScroll.
Participant: Should we go speak to the Schottenstein guy?
R’Kessin: No, he's dead.
Participant: Does he have a relative?
R’Kessin: I would imagine so.
Participant: Maybe his son wants to follow in his footsteps.
R’Kessin: Yes, but the difference, which is important, is that ArtScroll produces translations. Even though they're very good, the truth is that, in order to really uplift everybody and make them into massive talmidei chachamim, a translation won't do it. You have to revamp, create a new curriculum based on mishnayos called “mishnaic maps.” That can do it because it presents the material in a completely different way, super-organized.
Participant: I'll see if I could speak to a couple of people for you rabbi...
R’Kessin: I would be willing to speak to people, tell them the idea, the launch of a revolution. That's what it would do because the tragedy is this: I’ve given hundreds of shiurim to so many different people and it is tragic to speak to a guy who's been in learning for twenty years and, when speaking to him, you realize he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's a very poor thinker and he doesn't remember anything. Could you imagine if the colleges produced this type of person?
And I know why this happens. It’s because all they teach them is Gemara with no introduction, no basis, no mishnayos so, of course, he’s handicapped. He’s learning advanced text without any preliminary knowledge. The tragedy is that this system continues.
Participant: The idea is coming at the right time.
R’Kessin: It may be the right time but I don't have the right people to speak to.
I presented this idea to many people but it's always been rejected for different reasons.
One person says, “Well, you know we're with the mesorah; you have to learn Gemara all day long, and you have to start at ten years old. What am I going to do, argue with this guy?
Participant: It reminds me of what you're teaching us. It's like you have so much to teach but you can't. It’s as though maybe it's the pekida and maybe now you could start to unleash your ideas to let people know what you have.
Rabbi Kessin: It requires a person who is really wealthy; right? That’s number one.
Number two requires a tremendous amount of vision, the ability to see what could be.
Since the giving of this lecture, the rabbi’s website has a section entitled, “RAMAT”: Rapid Mastery of Torah. This title is one of the tabs on the homepage. There, you will find information about the concept, the hashkafa, the pragmatic use, of a “mishnaic map” and its precursor, RaMCHaL’s Method. There you will find and introduction, video, audio, and transcription.