We are now at the beginning of the forty-second cycle of learning Rambam, three chapters per day, based on what the Rebbe said on Acharon Shel Pesach, 22 Nissan 5744 (1984) when the Rebbe initiated the takonah of learning Rambam:
Unity among Jews is such an important matter that all efforts must be undertaken to achieve it. Indeed, unity hastens the final redemption: The cause of the exile, our sages say, was baseless hatred among Jews. When love and unity reign among Jews, the cause of the exile will have been abolished – and thus automatically the exile itself will be ended.
Unity Through Torah
One of the ways to promote unity is for all Jews to learn the same subject in Torah. When a Jew studies Torah, he and Torah are joined in “a wonderful union, like which there is none other.” When a number of Jews study the same topic, they too, through the Torah they study, are united in “a wonderful union, like which there is none other.” And because Torah is eternal, the bond forged between Jews through Torah is also eternal.
This unity is in addition to the warmth and closeness among those who learn a common subject when they together discuss and analyze its ideas.
The unity of Jews through Torah could be produced by learning any topic. But since “Israel is linked to the Torah” – meaning every aspect of a Jew and Jewry is connected to Torah in its entirety – the ultimate unity is produced by learning something which encompasses the whole Torah.
Rambam’s Mishneh Torah
There is a work which does just that. Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon – Maimonides) wrote a work which, as he writes in his introduction to it, is a “compendium of the entire Oral Torah.” He called this work “Mishneh Torah” – “Repetition of the Torah” for “a person who first reads the Written Torah and then this work will know from it the whole of the Oral Torah.” And, he writes, it is written “in plain language and terse style so that the entire Oral Torah might become systematically known to all.”
Besides serving as an instrument wherewith to unite all Jewry, there is another important advantage to learning Mishneh Torah – concerning the mitzvah of studying Torah, in which there are various levels:
- “Study that leads to deed; they are the laws that every person needs to know to observe the mitzvos properly.”
- “To know all the Written Torah and the whole Oral Torah,” which includes “all the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi, Mechilta, Sifra, Sifri, Toseftos and all the Midrashim … to fulfill the mitzvah, ‘You shall surely observe all the mitzvah.” This encompasses the study of all the laws, Aggadah, the secrets of the Torah, and so forth.
- There is a special advantage to learning the laws of the Torah, including those which are unnecessary for observance of the mitzvos (such as those which do not apply in exile).
- Study specially to engrave the words of Torah in one’s memory.
In the third level, study of the halachos in Torah, Mishneh Torah is unique. Unlike other halachic works (e.g., Rif and Shulchan Aruch) which omit certain laws, such as those which do not apply in exile, Rambam’s Mishneh Torah explains all the halachos in Torah. When, therefore, a person learns Mishneh Torah, he fulfills the mitzvah of studying and knowing all the Torah’s laws.
In the light of the above, the following proposal is offered:
In addition to one’s regular study sessions in Talmud (Bavli and Yerushalmi), in the laws necessary for proper observance of mitzvos, and in other subjects in Torah, every person should learn Mishneh Torah daily. Mishneh Torah should be apportioned into sections, a different section to be learned each day. Thus, each day all Jews will learn one and the same section.
Apportionment of Mishneh Torah
Those who are unable to learn three chapters a day should learn a chapter a day (prefaced, as before, by the Introduction and enumeration of the mitzvos). They will thereby conclude its study in the month of Shevat, 5747 (for 5746 is a leap year). The public Siyum should be held on a festival proximate to the time it is concluded.
Since it is very difficult to learn in depth three chapters a day, one may tend to learn them superficially. It is therefore proper for those who are capable of it to learn in depth at least one law (or part of a law) of the daily portion. Of course, this is in addition to learning the entire daily portion, through which one is united with the others who learn it.