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Does One Have to Learn Halacha and Mussar?

Rav Chaim Weg

Question: We have stated that the ikkur mitzvah of limud haTorah is to learn Gemara. What about learning mussar and halacha? Is that also part of the mitzvah? 

Answer: Part of the mitzvah of limud haTorah is that the learning should be “meivi l’yedei ma’asoh”, it should have practical applications. In fact, the Shulchan Aruch Harav says that the beginning of one’s learning should be to learn sugyos that are relevant to halacha l’ma’asoh so that one will know what Hashem wants him to do.

The Mishnah Berurah cites the Shach that working men who only have three or four hours a day to learn should make sure to learn Sifrei Haposkim. Presumably, those who learn all day will be able to discern halacha l’ma’asoh from their learning, but if one has less time, he has to make sure to learn the sefarim of the Poskim.

The Aruch Hashulchan writes that many people don’t enjoy learning halacha l’ma’asoh as much as they enjoy learning Gemara, and they may end up not learning altogether. For such people, he says that it is preferable to learn “mah shelibo chafetz” (what his heart desires).

It is said in the name of the Steipler Gaon that one should have a halacha seder every day in order to know how to live his life, and this is also a fulfillment of limud hameivi l’yedei ma’asoh. So, one should definitely set aside at least a few minutes every day to learn halacha l’ma’asoh

The Mishnah Berurah adds that a person also has an obligation to learn Sifrei Mussar every single day, noting that this is the antidote for the yeitzer hara. The Chasam Sofer would start his shiur every day with a few minutes of Chovos Halevavos. Although, as we said, one’s main seder limud should be in Gemara and halacha l’ma’asoh, one should also make sure to spend time studying mussar every day.

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