Rav Avigdor Miller on When Not To Learn Chumash (June 1984)

If a person has two subjects in Torah that he can learn, one he enjoys and one he doesn’t, which one should he study?

Everybody knows the answer. We have a rule: לעולם ילמוד אדם תורה במקום שלבו חפץ – “A man should always learn Torah in the subject that his heart desires” (Avodah Zara 19a). But suppose he’s deciding between learning and not learning. Then he has no choice. It doesn’t matter what his heart desires.

But let me tell you something. Suppose a person has a choice between learning Gemara and learning Chumash. Very often, that’s also not a choice. And I’ll tell you why. Because it’s not that he desires Chumash; it’s not that he desires to understand the Chumash and learn what Hashem is trying to tell him. No, it’s just because he desires Gemara less. He’s looking for an easy way out. He wants to be lazy; he doesn’t want to put in the effort required for learning Gemara, so Chumash is his cop-out.

But if both are of equal difficulty, then he should use the principle of מה שלבו חפץ as his yardstick. He should choose the subject that interests him more. That’s the rule of לעולם ילמוד אדם תורה במקום שלבו חפץ. And that’s because a person will succeed more in the subject that interests him most. And nothing is as important as success in understanding the דבר השם.

TAPE # 512 (June 1984)