Habad: The Hasidism of R. Shneur Zalman of Lyady

By Roman A. Foxbrunner | Go to book overview
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4
Torah and Commandments

The centrality of Torah-study in RSZ's Hasidism is reflected in the fact that this is the one religioethical area to which he devoted a halakhic monograph. Hilkhot Talmud Torah ( Shklov, 1794) was his first published work; it was also the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in the six centuries since Maimonides originated the rubric. Like the other sections of' RSZ Shulḣ+̣an 'Arukh, it is a tour de force of halakhic synthesis, integrating not only a host of sources but also the exact formulations used in those sources. Unlike most of the other sections, however, Hilkhot Talmud Torah contains major decisions that are conspicuously original. Some of these are based on RSZ's analysis of the relevant texts, but others are apparently founded more on axiological than on purely halakhic considerations. Kabbalistic values and concepts in particular strongly influenced RSZ's halakhic approach to Torah-study.

Thus, he often cites the Lurianic belief that every Jewish soul must master and fulfil all 613 commandments in order to perfect itself and enjoy eternal beatitude. 1 This kabbalistic assumption apparently led him to emphasize those few rabbinic sources that seem to imply that every Jew is halakhically obligated to master the entire Torah. 2 RSZ was consequently the first to insist that it is a Biblical requirement for every father to teach, or ensure that his son learn, the entire Written and the Oral Torah: 3 the Bible, both Talimuds, all extant Midrashim and midreshe halakhah, and the (major) codes. The essential aspect of this curriculum, the essence of Torah, is the explication of' the 613 commandments to a sufficient degree that one knows exactly how to

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