1) AGADAH: LEARNING TORAH WHERE ONE'S HEART DESIRES
OPINIONS: Rebbi states that a person learns Torah only from a place ("mi'Makom") from which his heart desires to learn. He derives this from the verse, "His desire is in the Torah of Hash-m" (Tehilim 1:2). The Gemara later quotes an almost identical statement in the name of Rava: "A person should always (l'Olam) learn Torah in a place (b'Makom) that his heart desires." He derives this from the same verse as Rebbi derives his statement.
Presumably, Rava was not merely restating Rebbi's teaching. He seems to be adding something by the slightly different phraseology of his statement. What is the meaning of these two statements?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Rebbi's statement refers to the topic which one learns. One learns well only when he learns a topic that he wants to learn, and not when he learns something that he has no desire to learn (see BI'UR HALACHAH OC 553, with regard to the Halachah that limits what one is permitted to learn on Tish'ah b'Av). RASHI (DH mi'Makom) explains that the fact that he wants to learn something else causes him to be unable to concentrate on other material. In contrast, Rava's statement refers to the location in which one learns, a reference to his teacher. Rava means that one learns well only from a Rebbi from whom he wants to learn. This is why Rava says "b'Makom" -- "in a place" where one's heart desires to learn.
(b) The SEDER YAKOV gives a different explanation. Rebbi's statement refers to one who learns from a teacher (see Rashi). Rebbi means that a person cannot be forced by someone else to learn something that he does not want to learn. Rebbi's statement does not address a different situation -- one in which a person knows that he wants to learn one subject, but he thinks that he will benefit more if he learns a different subject (even though his desire to learn that subject is less). In such a situation, what should he learn? Does Rebbi maintain that a person cannot be forced by someone else to learn something, but he could learn something that he chooses to learn even though he does not have a desire to learn it, or does Rebbi maintain that one is able to learn only what he truly wants to learn? Rava's statement addresses this situation. Rava says that even when the person is experiencing an internal conflict about what to learn, he should learn only what he truly wants to learn. This difference between the statement of Rebbi and the statement of Rava is implied in their wording. Rebbi says that "a person does not learn," implying learning from a teacher. Rava states, "A person should always learn," implying learning where one's heart desires even when the other option comes from the person himself.
(c) The Seder Yakov cites another explanation of Rava's statement based on the words of the SHEVET MUSAR (Perek 1, DH v'Im Amor Yomar). The Shevet Musar explains that the verse in Tehilim teaches that a person should always pursue the field of Torah study that he prefers. He supports this assertion with the words of the ARIZAL in SEFER DERUSHEI HA'NESHAMOS V'HA'GILGULIM (Perek 3). The Arizal explains that a person who completed his learning in a prior lifetime only needs, in his present lifetime, to work on the method of learning that he did not yet master. If someone feels that his heart is drawn only to Gemara, this is because that area of Torah is the area which he needs to master. (Obviously, a person must strive to do all of the Mitzvos, and blatant neglect to learn any of the Halachos for this reason is inexcusable. The words of the Arizal refer to the rest of a person's learning, when he is certain that he is not neglecting to learn the basics of Halachah; see SHACH YD 246:5.) He cautions that one should not heed the scorn of others who tell him to learn other areas of Torah, since doing so will require that he come back to this world in yet another Gilgul.
The words of the Arizal seem to conflict with the conclusion of the SHULCHAN ARUCH HA'RAV (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:4), who writes in the name of the CHOCHMEI HA'EMES (the scholars of Kabalah) that every Neshamah needs to learn all four levels of Torah -- Peshat, Remez, Derush, and Sod -- in order to achieve its Tikun, its perfection. According to the Arizal, however, one needs only to learn the area to which he feels drawn.
The Seder Yakov answers that the two opinions are not arguing. Rather, they refer to two different types of people. The Arizal refers to the type of person who feels that he must learn a certain area of Torah. That person indeed should concentrate on that area. The Shulchan Aruch ha'Rav refers to a person who feels no particular urge to learn a certain area of Torah, but who just wants to learn. His Neshamah's Tikun is achieved only by learning all areas of Torah. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) BEING "MESHALESH" ONE'S TIME
OPINIONS: Rebbi Tanchum bar Chanila'i teaches, "A person should always divide his years into three parts (Yeshalesh): a third in Mikra, a third in Mishnah, and a third in Talmud." The Gemara asks, does a person know how long he will live such that he knows exactly how much of his life is a third? The Gemara answers that Rebbi Tanchum refers to dividing up each individual day of a person's life.
How is this division of time supposed to be executed?
(a) RASHI (DH b'Yomi) comments that Rebbi Tanchum means that one should learn Mikra for two days, Mishnah for the next two days, and then learn Gemara for two days, every week. This also seems to be the opinion of the Ran.
According to Rashi, what should one learn on Shabbos?
1. The RI MI'LUNIL explains, like Rashi, that one's week should be divided into three sets of two days. On Shabbos, one should review everything that he learned during the week.
2. Alternatively, perhaps Rashi means what RAV YAKOV EMDEN expresses in SIDUR HA'YA'AVETZ (Musach ha'Shabbos 183b), who writes that one should not learn in great depth on Shabbos, since one's learning on Shabbos also must be an Oneg, pleasurable, and not overly exerting. Perhaps for this reason Rebbi Tanchum gives a schedule only for the six days of the week, and not for Shabbos.
TOSFOS (DH Yeshalesh) challenges Rashi's explanation. According to Rashi, the Gemara's original question still applies: a person does not know how long he will live, and thus he might die before the end of the week without having divided his learning into thirds. (See RITVA here and MAHARIT to Kidushin 30a, who imply that according to Rashi, there is no concern that a person might not fulfill Rebbi Tanchum's dictum in the final week of his life, as long as fulfilled it for all of the other weeks of his life.)
(b) TOSFOS explains that a person should learn all three areas of Torah each day. This is why the Chachamim included in the daily prayers the recitation of Parshas ha'Tamid (verses of Mikra), the chapter of Eizehu Mekoman (Mishnayos), and the Beraisa of Rebbi Yishmael (Talmud). RABEINU TAM states that those who study Talmud Bavli also achieve this three-way division, for the Gemara in Sanhedrin (24a) points out that Talmud Bavli is named appropriately because it is "mixed" ("Belulah") with Mikra, Mishnah, and Talmud.
According to Tosfos, "Yeshalesh" does not mean that one should divide his time into thirds. If it meant that one should divide his time into thirds, then reciting a few passages of Mikra, Mishnah, and Gemara each day in the daily prayers would not fulfill this obligation, nor would saying a few verses and Mishnayos while learning Gemara be an equal division of time. "Yeshalesh" means, according to Tosfos, that a person should incorporate some of each of these areas of Torah into his day. This is also the view of the RITVA.
It is important to note that the Gemara here does not contradict the Mishnah in Avos (5:21) which teaches, "Five years old [is the age] for Mikra, ten years old for Mishnah... fifteen years old for Gemara." The MAHARSHA explains that Tosfos' explanation of the Gemara is consistent with the Mishnah there. Even though the Mishnah seems to say that one should learn only Talmud once he reaches the age of fifteen, according to the explanation of Tosfos the Gemara here also means that one should focus primarily on Gemara as an adult, and merely incorporate some Mikra and Mishnah into his day.
The SEDER YAKOV explains the Mishnah there differently. The Mishnah there refers to the ages at which one becomes ready to learn each subject. The requirement of "Yeshalesh" applies only after a person is able to learn all of these subjects.
(c) However, the RAMBAM (Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:12) writes that "Yeshalesh" means that a person should study each topic for three hours each day. The Rambam adds that this applies only when a person begins to learn Torah. When he becomes greater in knowledge he may devote smaller amounts of time to Mikra and Mishnah and devote most of his time to Gemara.
The KESEF MISHNEH writes that the Rambam understands that it is obvious that learning Gemara requires more time than Mikra and Mishnah, and he records the Rambam's opinion as the Halachah in SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 246:4). The LECHEM MISHNEH seems to learn that the Rambam is explaining why the practice of focusing on Gemara is acceptable, similar to the comment of Rabeinu Tam in Tosfos.
The SHACH (246:5) adds an important postscript to this subject. He writes that the Gemara's directives apply to people who have the ability to learn Torah for many hours each day. In contrast, those who have only three or four hours a day to learn must also incorporate the study of Halachah into their schedule. He comments that when the Gemara in Megilah (28b) teaches that "one who learns Halachos each day is assured that he is a Ben Olam ha'Ba," it refers to learning practical Halachos and not to learning Gemaras about Halachic situations which leave the practical Halachah in doubt. (Y. MONTROSE)