Rav Avigdor Miller on How To Learn Chumash



If I have time and I want to study chumash in the best way possible, what would you recommend as the best way to proceed in order to get the maximum benefit in the time that I have?


That’s a big question to answer at such a gathering and I won’t answer it completely. But I’ll just give one tip. In addition to many other things that should be said I’ll say this one thing. And that’s to study the sentence without any commentaries – to concentrate your mind on it and see what you can make of it with your own head.

And that’s the method that’s least employed. This method is the one least used. The first thing they do is, “What do the commentaries say?” But what does the chumash say, many people fail to see. Sometimes it’s so obvious that the commentators don’t waste a word on it. But obvious doesn’t mean that you understand it.

I’ll give you a mashal.  There are two ways or at least there used to be two ways – maybe there still are – of looking for diamonds. One way is to dig deep into the ground. You have to move a lot of earth with great bulldozers. But some of the biggest diamonds were found by just walking and looking on the surface of the earth. The Paragon diamond! A big diamond, as big as a fist, was found on top.

So some of the secrets of the Torah you get by digging in. You dig into the commentaries. You dig into what the Talmud says. But some of the secrets of the Torah are right on top. And they’re the ones, I’m sorry to say, that even the learned ones sometimes don’t see.

So I’m giving you an invaluable tip. Spend time thinking about the plain meaning. The very plainest meaning. And when you have exhausted that – it can’t be exhausted but when you exhaust that, then go to the commentaries.

But what about Rashi?

Rashi is a very important commentary. But I’m talking to this person right now. See, I won’t tell this to everybody. This is not for everybody. Other people, I’ll tell them, “You don’t have much time so dive into the Rashi right away.” But this man is ambitious. And he has a little more time so I’m telling him that this is the way. Use the rosh (the head). Study chumash with the rosh. And when you’re finished with the rosh, then you’ll see what the other rishonim have to say. This rishon however (the Rov was pointing at his head) should be rishon.
TAPE # R-36