Top 7 Reasons For Struggling in Learning Talmud and Rabbinic Texts

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These were actually my personal struggles. Each individual might find different ones. -Rafi


1. No Sentence Breaks or Quotations

The Talmud can sometimes ask a rhetorical question or talk in a sarcastic tone of voice. Good luck in trying to figure that out when there are no quotations.

2. Can’t Understand Acronyms

Roshei Teivos (acronyms) are esoteric by nature, as they are meant for those initiated in the actual text. There are actually books dedicated to deciphering these acronyms, but it’s just easier to spell it out. The Sifrei Kodesh are difficult enough without this.

3. Confusion with Rabbinic Terminology

This also takes practice. Lots and lots of practice. Mimela this was not an easy obstacle to overcome.

4. No Access to Artscroll/Jastrow

When I was in school, Artscroll was looked down upon as it was the “easy way out” to growing in learning Torah. Psychologically this affected me as I can’t look at an Artscroll today without feeling like I cheated just a little. “The Jastrow,” a Talmudic dictionary written by Prof. Marcus Jastrow, is an indispensable resource to those really looking to learn the language. For some reason I could just never get a hold of one of those until long after I left Yeshiva.

    5. No Time – Too Much Secular Studies

    Again, this post covers my personal struggles. I personally never got to go for that “year in Israel” to learn. Once I attended a Bais Medrash program I felt very far behind and wished I had more time to learn and grow in Torah during that time. Sadly, I had my day split up with college classes, so I was forced to resign myself to knowing that I could only grow so much with so much else to do.

    6. Confusing Logic

    If A+B, then F+G, therefore T=X. That’s the logic some Sugyas (topics) have. Good luck there.

      7. Study Partners that Wish to Learn with Someone Else

      Again, personal struggles here. Study partners (a.k.a. Chavrusas) switch for various reasons, whether you can’t come on time, he can’t come on time, one learns too slow/fast, if the learning style is too different, if personalities clash, etc. Often one will ask the Rosh Yeshiva to be switched without asking you, and you are left “high and dry.” This was the number one issue I personally had as Rabbeim weren’t in too much of a rush to assign me to a different one when another cancelled on me. I dreaded this part the most as I would be left to fend for myself.

      8. Shiurim that Were Too High-Level

      RabbiYehudaShmulewitzThis was partially my fault. When I went into Bais Medrash I came straight out of a low-level Yeshiva high school, spent a semester at a secular college, then went in. Most others were fresh out of learning in Israel for 1-2 years. I was at a disadvantage. All of a sudden the lowest-level Shiur Rebbe starts rattling off Gemara, Rashi, Tosafos, Ritva, Meshech Chochma, et al on a topic that was hard enough to digest on its own. Welcome to the bigs.