the length of your days

I'm in a long machloket with someone (a young Rav who is so brilliant, I'm literally dust before all his learning) about the importance of learning Gemara. Not about it in general, but about me learning Gemara in particular. It's a question of how central it should be to my learning.

Right now, all the Hassidut I am learning feels like I'm on the right path, it keeps me up, it keeps me happy, it protects me from all the troubles that try to trip me up in the world. It's my life-line.

I don't learn except according to daily or weekly sedarim that I can maintain, because anything else is just going to ultimately hold me back or confuse and trip me up. Having said that, there are times in my life where I've learned a lot of Halachah, (Ben Ish Hai, Yalkut Yosef, Mishnah Torah, Mishnah+Bartenura, Mishnah Berurah) and I greatly enjoy it.

Pouring in my energies into the bottomless pit of Gemara just seems terrifying, and whenever I start to, I feel my life drifting away. I feel like it is drowning me in a see of unknown, lies, and ego.

Mainly, in our argument I maintain that now is not the time in my life to study Gemara. As much as I'm affraid I might be wrong about this, right now I know it to be true. Really, I'm not yet on the level. I haven't learned Tanach and Mishna as the necesary prerequisites, and I'm still, to my mind at my earliest stages of self-chinnuch. Right now, I need to absorb all of Hassidut or as close as I possibly can come to that. I'd like to (B'Ezrat HaShem) read most of the major early works at least once. (Something I'm saying in innocence and probably ignorance.) The daunting ones for me (that I currently own but have yet to start) are the Toldot Yaakov Yosef, and the Maor V'Shemesh. I'm sure there are many others I have yet to learn about, but I need to at least get through the Noam Elimelech first.

Anyways I started learning Gemara again. (in case you were worried) But here's a quote from the Hayom Yom of today that I think adequately explains what I feel when learning Hassidut:
To R. Hillel Paritcher's question whether to review Chassidus even in towns where the people have no conception of Chassidus, the Mitteler Rebbe responded: "The soul hears words of Chassidus." It is written, "Flowing from Lebanon." Lebanon is spelled (in Hebrew) l'b nu'n. (ל"ב נו"ן) "Lebanon" thus represents chochma and bina of the soul. When the soul hears, from there issues a "flow", a "stream of droplets" into that "radiance" or ha'ara of the soul which vitalizes the body; this results in a strengthening of "do good" expressed in the 248 positive mitzvot, and of "turn from evil" expressed in the 365 prohibitions.
In very short summary, understanding Hassidut is not a prerequisite to learning it, it enters your soul and your soul understands. It draws life through your soul down into your body.

Rebbe Nachman said something very similar in his Sichot HaRan about hearing the words of a Tzaddik.


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