Rav Avigdor Miller on Iyun and Bekiyus

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Q:
Why is that in the yeshivos so much time is put into iyun, the slower and deeper method of studying gemara, and not so much on covering more ground?

A:
That’s a very good question, by the way. The truth is that up until recently, in the yeshivos, they used to learn a big part of the mesechta. They used to cover sometimes an entire mesechta, sometimes half of the mesechta. Today however, there is a competition for who can cover less ground. That’s how it is! A boy says, “In my yeshiva we covered only six blatt in Kesuvos this last year.” So the other boy says, “That’s nothing! My yeshiva only covered four blatt.” And it’s a doubtful accomplishment. I don’t know if it is such a good thing.

But I’m not going to criticize. Maybe in the course of time, they’ll see that what they are doing is only for big ba’alei kishronos, those with very good heads. But the majority of the talmidim are left out; they are not capable of too much iyun.

And therefore, although the melamed is a poor man; he’s not getting paid enough, so he thinks, “I might as well make use of this job to shteig myself. I am not making too much money, so at least I want to shteig from it.” That’s what he’s thinking. So we day, “Have pity on your talmidim.”  You are shteiging and they’re falling asleep! They’re getting discouraged. So, I do think that it’s a good idea to put in a little more time into covering ground.

However, even when you cover ground, it should be done with chazarah, not just learning. Chazarah, chazarah, chazarah!  If you learned even the gemara alone, not with the tosfisen, and you know it well, then you’re a success. You have to know it well however. Learn it until you remember it, talk it over and understand it. If you have time, you can look at meforshim too, but number one, the foundation of learning is to learn the gemara alone and to know it well. Then later, you can learn a little more in depth if you’re capable. It is very important to learn and have a geshmak in your learning by being able to know it well yourself.
TAPE # E-91 (November 1996)