1) AGADAH: LEARNING TORAH OUT OF LOVE
QUESTION: The Beraisa cites the verse in Parshas Netzavim, "To love Hash-m, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cling to Him, because He is your life..." (Devarim 30:20). The Beraisa derives from the verse that "a person should not say, 'I will learn verses so that people will call me a Chacham,' or, 'I will learn Mishnah so that they will call me Rebbi,' or, 'I will learn Gemara so that I will be [called] a Zaken.' Rather, you should learn out of love, and in the end the honor will come, as it says, 'Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart' (Mishlei 7:3), and it says, 'Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all of its pathways are peace,' (Mishlei 3:17), and it says, 'It is a tree of life to those who hold on to it, and its supporters are praiseworthy' (Mishlei 3:18)."
Why does the Beraisa divide its directive that one should learn Torah out of love for Hash-m and not out of impure motives into three different commands? It should have said simply, "A person should not say, 'I will learn so that they will call me a Chacham."
ANSWER: The KEREN ORAH writes that there are three basic, progressive levels of learning Torah: learning verses (Chumash), learning Mishnah, and learning Gemara ("Shinun," or "sharpening"). Each of these three levels has a unique purpose and effect on the person who succeeds at each level in learning for the sake of love of Hash-m. In general, learning "Lishmah" at each level brings a person closer to Hash-m, a state which is the true form of life, as the verse says, "And you who cling to Hash-m, your G-d, you are all alive today" (Devarim 4:4). At the same time, however, the Yetzer ha'Ra is active on each level to prevent a person from achieving the true goal of learning by causing him to have ulterior motives.
The first level is learning verses of the Chumash. This type of learning, when done out of love, brings a person to a recognition of Hash-m as the Creator of the world. In addition, through learning Chumash out of love for Hash-m a person comes to a realization of Hash-m's involvement in all of the activities of the world and of history. By becoming aware of the greatness and omnipotence of Hash-m, a person is able to overcome the temptations of the Yetzer ha'Ra. Such a person is called a "Chacham" because he uses his wisdom gained through learning the Torah to enable him to overcome his Yetzer ha'Ra and to follow the will of Hash-m. This level is alluded to in the first words of the verse in Netzavim quoted by the Beraisa, "To love Hash-m, your G-d" -- by learning the verses of the Torah "Lishmah" a person comes to realize the greatness of the Creator which leads to love of Hash-m.
However, if a person learns Chumash with intent to gain prestige in the eyes of others and to be called a "Chacham," his learning will be of no value in achieving closeness with Hash-m and he will stumble into the traps of the Yetzer ha'Ra. To emphasize this point, the Beraisa cites the verse in Mishlei (7:3), "Bind them on your fingers...," a reference to words of Torah. The following verse there (7:4) states, "Say to wisdom (Chochmah), 'You are my sister,'" which teaches that only when a person is as certain of a Halachic ruling as he is certain that his sister is forbidden to him is he permitted to say the ruling (Shabbos 145b). Similarly, only when a person is certain that he is learning Torah out of love for Hash-m and not out of personal pleasure or benefit may he be called a true "Chacham." If he is learning for impure motives, to derive worldly benefit or honor from his learning, then he is not called a "Chacham" and he will stumble in sin. Only when one learns Torah "Lishmah" will the words of Torah "protect you from a forbidden woman, from the seductive words of a strange woman" (Mishlei 7:5).
After a person has achieved Chochmah through learning the verses of the Torah, he progresses to the second level of learning, Mishnah. Mishnah teaches the details of the words and laws written in the Torah, the details which Hash-m explained to Moshe Rabeinu and which have been passed down through the Oral Law from generation to generation. This second level of learning is alluded to in the second phrase of the verse in Netzavim quoted by the Beraisa, "... to listen to His voice," as the Mishnah is the Oral Law spoken by Hash-m to His people.
The purpose of learning Mishnah is to know how to walk in the ways of the Torah and to fulfill its Mitzvos properly. Moreover, one who is erudite in Mishnah is able to instruct others how to follow the Mitzvos of the Torah; he is fit to serve in the capacity of a "Rebbi." The Beraisa shows that this is the purpose of learning Mishnah "Lishmah" by quoting the verse, "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all of its pathways are peace" (Mishlei 3:17), which implies that knowing how to live according to the ways of the Torah enables a person to bask in the pleasantness of Hash-m's presence and to achieve eternal life. This is the purpose of learning Mishnah, and not to achieve worldly benefit or honor. "All of its pathways are peace" means that when one follows all of its pathways with pure motives, he will inevitably receive reward in this world (as the Beraisa says, "and in the end the honor will come").
The third and highest level of learning Torah is learning Gemara, which involves purifying one's thought processes and perfecting them in the ways of logical thought so that one can come to a deep awareness of Hash-m and His wisdom. One cannot reach the pinnacle of fulfillment of Hash-m's will through learning Mishnah alone (as the Gemara says in Sotah 22a) because learning Mishnah does not require mastery of the mind's analytical and cognitive prowess. Only when one learns Gemara "Lishmah" and achieves the ability to be "Asukei Shemaita Aliba d'Hilchesa" does he reach the ultimate level of learning Torah and he clings to Hash-m through the light of the Torah. (The Gemara in Moed Katan (16b) relates that David ha'Melech humbled himself like a worm in order not to have any prideful thoughts or motives when learning Gemara, and in return he merited that he achieved the ability to reach proper conclusions in Halachah through his learning, as the Gemara described in Eruvin 53b.) To support this assertion the Beraisa quotes the verse, "It is a tree of life to those who hold on to it" (Mishlei 3:18), which teaches that the ultimate goal of learning Torah with purity of analytical thought is to arrive at the source of true life.
2) USING THE TORAH TO EARN AN INCOME
QUESTION: Rebbi Eliezer bar'Rebbi Tzadok discusses the importance of learning Torah and doing Mitzvos "Lishmah," with pure motives. He says, "Do not make them a crown with which to aggrandize yourself, and do not make them a Kurdom with which to hoe." Similarly, in the Mishnah in Avos (4:5) Rebbi Tzadok teaches, "It is written, 'Do not make them a Kurdom with which to dig.'"
These teachings imply that a "Kurdom" is an instrument used for hoeing and digging, such as a spade or a shovel. However, the word "Kurdom" usually refers to an ax (as in Beitzah 31a), but an ax is not used for hoeing or for digging. What is the meaning of the use of the word "Kurdom" in these teachings?
ANSWER: The NETZIV (in MEROMEI SADEH) explains that this is the point of the Gemara. One should not use the Torah for a purpose for which it is not intended (such as for self-aggrandizement and personal gain), just as one would not use an ax for a purpose for which it was not intended, like digging. However, just as an ax is used for chopping wood, so, too, the Torah may be used for the purpose for which it is intended to be used -- to bring honor and glory to the Torah. Hence, if one will bring glory to the Torah (and that is his primary objective) by earning an income through Torah, he certainly is permitted to do so. (See Background to the Daf for sources for the definition of "Kurdom.")
(See, however, the Girsa of the ROSH here, "Do not make them a Kurdom with which to cut," which is the alternate Girsa in the Mishnah in Avos (see TIFERES YISRAEL there). See also Sotah 15b, "Yachol Yachpor b'Kurdomos.")
(For the Halachic implications of this Gemara, see RAMBAM in Perush ha'Mishnayos, and BI'UR HALACHAH (OC 231) who cites the TESHUVOS DEVAR SHMUEL.)