People often ask me how I developed my method for learning and memory. While there have been many steps in the journey one of the first seeds planted occurred at the age of nineteen when I memorized the 613 commandments in the Torah.
I had just arrived in Israel at Aish HaTorah, a yeshiva for young unaffiliated Jews that were interested in learning more about their heritage. I knew very little in the way of Judaism and whatever I did knew had always felt irrelevant. My interest in exploring my roots began the year before and now I had decided to spend a year diving in by coming to Jerusalem.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, the founder of Aish HaTorah, felt strongly that beginner students should attain a big picture understanding of Jewish tradition to serve as our foundation for learning. That made a lot of sense to me. So he highly recommended we commit to memory all 613 Biblical commandments. That sounded outrageous.
Memorize 613 commandments? How could anyone possibly do that let alone me? Memorizing 613 of anything sounded closer to memorizing to infinity than to any number within my mental reach. The only memory experience I ever had in school was memorizing a Shakespeare soliloquy. I really didn’t think it was possible.
But Rabbi Weinberg was a great salesman and he convinced us new students to give it a try. His belief in our ability to succeed came through and he also diminished the accomplishment. He made it sound like child’s play, and that in fact we’d ultimately come to reach much higher levels in learning. So approximately one month after arriving in Israel I joined a group of eight students that would take this project on as an extra curricular activity. We committed to learn and memorize 10 commandments a day with the goal of completing them all within two months.
This experience definitely seeded my fascination with memory and demonstrated how much learning changed when I had material at my fingertips.
Enter Maimonides, the Great Codifier
But more than mere memory this effort shaped my belief that the key to learning is an organized mind.
Rabbi Weinberg encouraged us to memorize the commandments in Maimonides’ order instead of how they are presented in the Torah.
Producing a big picture Course on the entire Talmud has been a long time dream and I’m thrilled Patrons of the Talmud is getting lots of enthusiastic support.
A number of people have asked me to show them some sample videos to get a better idea of how the whole program works. So here they are.
I’ve produced three different videos to demonstrate each level of the program.
The goal in Level One is to help people master the order of the 63 Masechtos in Shas. The names of the Masechtos and their place within the overall framework help people begin the process of building an organized understanding of Torah She’ Baal Peh. In the sample video I’ve chosen to focus on Seder Moed.
The goal in Level Two is then give people a big picture orientation of each Masechta. The major topics are identified and we map out the Masechta perek by perek. By the end of Level Two people will have a map of the entire Shas in their mind and know what’s in the 525 perakim topic by topic.
The goal in Level Three is to present people with a more detailed overview of each of the topics. That way when they begin learning Mishnayos and Gemara inside they have fluency in over 600 concepts that commonly come up all over Shas.
My long term goal is then to produce a Level Four. The goal of Level Four is to help people learning Shas Mishnayos on the inside master the material by organizing each perek Mishna by Mishna with Simanim. I hope to produce a sample video shortly.
You’ll get a very good idea of how the program works and whether it’s effective based on the following videos.
I have three overall goals for every video:
1. To be extremely clear and easy to follow.
2. To make you feel like you learned a ton in a short amount of time, and that it was worth it.
3. To have you walk away with the material at your fingertips and wanting to learn more.
Please let me know how I do on all three counts.
Thanks for taking the time to watch them. I hope this will only be the beginning.
The first step is getting a big picture perspective of a Seder. Having a clear organized framework for the 63 Masechtos is important so when you learn something you know where it’s going and how it fits in to the rest of Torah She’Baal Peh.
In this video you’re going to learn the 12 Masechtos in Seder Moed and get clear on which ones go together conceptually.
Every video comes together with an accompanying handout.
Seder Moed Overview
You can also take a quiz right now.
Now that you’ve got an overall sense of Seder Moed let’s take a look at how we’re going to approach an individual Masechta. Go to the next post where I’ve produced a sample video for Taanis.
The first step to mastering a masechta is getting clear on the major topics covered and to see how they are organized by perek. I want you going into a Masechta with an overall map so you can build your understanding with confidence and effectively and never feel lost.
We’re also going to get clear on where the idea of an instituting a Taanis comes from in the Chumash.
Now that you know what the major topics are, let me show you how we go to the next level and clarify in more detail a topic that was mentioned.
Now that we’ve got an understanding of what Taanis covers, let’s now get clear on the first topic discussed which is fasting for rain.