Learning and Remembering Mishnayos

Trumot | Zamir Pollak | 11 years ago

After having finished the longest masecheta in seder Zera’im, it’s important to take a step back from the intensive limud and to see what we can do to improve the quality of our learning. While learning two mishnayos a day might seem to be an easy 10 – 15 minute job, the truth is that it is a rigorous activity that requires consistency and focus. It is all too easy to get into the unfortunate habit of skipping over a section of a mishnah because of its complexity or due to a lack of time.

While the daily pace is set in stone, there are a number of tips that can help us remember concepts, machlokos, and entire mishnayos. The Steipler zt”l writes in Karyana D’igrasa (cheilek 1, siman 140), his collected letters, that a proper way to review mishnayos is to learn each mishnah four times, and then at the end of each perek review it four times, and finally when one reaches the end of the masechta it should be reviewed four times. While this process is no doubt more effective than not reviewing at all, it is also quite time consuming, especially for those of us who have allocated a specific amount time for the limud and cannot afford to go over. What can be done is to quickly look over the mishnah a couple of times upon completing it, instead of just moving onto to the next one. This revision can take as little as one minute.

Another tip, also for those pressed for time, is to write a one line summary after learning the mishnah. It can include the machlokes, issue, or main idea. Even a bare-bones outline is helpful as it forces one to process the information sufficiently to boil down the material to get to the underlying point. Having done this procedure for the entire masechta would have resulted in 101 outlines, a small booklet!

For those of us who do have a bit more time and find the Steipler’s eitzah a bit difficult, another suggestion is to take each line of mishnah and repeat it a number of times, not like a parrot, but each time with understanding. The first couple of repetitions after having properly learned the line might take a drop of time, but each subsequent chazarah is faster. When one can read the entire mishnah smoothly at a normal clip, move on to the next mishnah.

While the aforementioned ideas stress the learning of the mishnah during the first limud, it is very important to have a long term chazarah system. Please see the fascinating website dafyomireview.org for various programs for chazarah.

To conclude, the Steipler says elsewhere (ibid 2:68) regarding teaching mishnayos to children, but which is equally applicable to all of us (writer’s rough translation):

It [limud mishnayos] gives much chizuk and encouragement, and many children from homes far away from limud haTorah have been pulled and attracted to limud haTorah because of it [mishanyos] to become outstanding talmidei chachamim and yirei shamayim.

V’yhei chelkeinu imahem.

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