[Avodah] Should Artscroll Be Worried?

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Sun Aug 1 07:43:15 PDT 2021

The following is from Rav Schwab on Prayer pages 358 - 359:

Talmud Torah: The way we learn Torah Shebe'al Peh today is not the optimal
way of doing so. Nowadays even the most outstanding gaon who learns
Torah uses sefarim. He has access to printed Shas Bavli and Yerushalmi, and
Beis Yosef, Tur, Rambam, and thousands of other sefarim. However, ideally.
Torah Shebe'al Peh is intended to be transmitted orally, from teacher to
student, and then studied orally by the students:
דברים שבעל פה אי אתה רשאי לאומרן בכתב
( Gittin 60b ). The use of sefarim as a means of learning Torah was
instituted as an emergency measure by Rabbeinu HaKadosh when he compiled
the Mishnah, so that the Torah would not be forgotten. He based his
ruling on the pasuk:  When it was time to act in
Hashem's Name, they voided Your Torah (Tehillim 119:126). Following the
lead of Rabbeinu HaKadosh, eventually all of Torah Shebe'al Peh was reduced
to writing.

However, when Mashiach comes, the Shas and other printed sefarim will
be relegated to the museums, and the original - and ideal - system of
learning Torah Shebe'al Peh orally will be reinstituted. For now, Torah
learning from written sefarim is only a temporary measure, a "marker," to
stay the course, and keep us familiar with the Torah, until bi'as HaMashiach,
when the ideal way of learning be'al peh, orally, will be reinstituted.

Interestingly, the printing press, on which the propagation of Torah
among the Jewish people has depended so heavily for the past 500 years,
was invented by a non-Jew named Gutenberg, from the City of Mainz in
Germany. This invention was really a very simple idea, and was in no way
comparable to the great inventions and discoveries of history as, for
instance, the harnessing of electric power. In fact, the Chinese had already
invented printing 1,000 years earlier, but it never reached Europe. Nevertheless,
this simple invention impacted on Jewish life so greatly that without it
Judaism would have come to a standstill. The availability of printing was
immediately seized upon by our people, and some of the earliest printed
books were Chumash with Rashi and Talmud Bavli. Imagine not having
printed Gemaras, and having to refer to a few handwritten copies, with Rashi
in a separate "Kuntreis, " or notebook. If a person had ten children, he would
have to write ten copies of the Shas by hand to enable his children to learn.

Why did HaKadosh Baruch Hu not give the zechus of inventing this means
of propagating the Torah among our people to a Jew, rather than to Gutenberg?
The reason is because learning Torah Sheb'al Peh from a written book
is not the ideal way of doing so. It is only an emergency measure, which was
necessitated in galus, to insure that Torah would not be forgotten. For
now, our method of learning mitoch hak'sav is only a "road marker" until
Mashiach comes, when the ideal method of learning Torah Sheb'al Peh
orally will be reinstituted.


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