Rav Avigdor Miller on Teaching Your Son How to Learn Gemara

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Q:
How can we train young boys to make a laining on a piece of gemara, to be able to read a gemara on their own, without the agmas nefesh that a lot of children and parents suffer through? 

A:
To help young boys make a good laining, I would say as follows. When someone begins to learn gemara but he’s not prepared for it, it’s like climbing a high mountain with a heavy pack on your back. You must first lighten the load. 

I would say that the first thing is to let the child learn all of Pirkei Avos. And he should be able to translate every single word. It’s not difficult, but it takes time. And he must be able to translate every word. And once he’s able to daventhrough Pirkei Avos without any hesitation, then give him an old mishnayis, without nekudos, and let him say Pirkei Avos. And when he learns to daventhrough Pirkei Avos without nekudos, now he’s ready to start Elu Metzius. Take Rabbi Lomner’s Elu Metzius. It’s a linear translation – a very easy gemara to use. Let him learn Elu Metzius. Even if he doesn’t know the meanings of the ideas – even though he doesn’t catch on to the arguments, nevertheless let him know how to translate Elu Metzius from beginning to end.

Now once he does that, then he’s ready for gemara. Yes, I guarantee you that a boy who follows this system, and he can, after a while, bentch Elu Metzius from beginning to end, he’s ready. He’ll start catching on.

Then, the problem is no longer the style of the gemara – the idiom. He knows all these things already. Now it’s the arguments of the Gemara that he’s faced with. And arguments alone he’ll be able to deal with. But without this preparation that I’m telling you about – if he’ll have to deal with the arguments plus the translation of the words and also the gemara’s style – that’s too much for him. And most boys therefore stumble on that big problem. They never had any preparation. They were never prepared properly. And I guarantee you that following this system will lead to success. 


TAPE # E-198 (November 1999)