Still Struggling To Learn The Other Half
After resolving my misguided thinking last November, I have spent the past year slowly learning Gemara. I have been able to finish Berachos and Rosh Hashanah, and now I am making my way through Maseches Sukka. As someone who never went to yeshiva, I continue to find learning Gemara to be extremely difficult. My simple mind constantly gets distracted by the numerous arguments and tries to remember who said what. I am pretty sure that a 10 year-old in Boro Park or Bnei Brak could learn circles around me.
I would be lying if I said that I do not struggle sometimes to find the relevance in the subject matter (ex. Can one who sleeps under the bed in a sukkah fulfill his obligation to dwell in a sukkah? [20b]) . An argument on a very minor detail in the Gemara can go on for pages and pages and pages while my mind says, "Just tell me the halacha already!!" Nevertheless, I continue to turn the pages and try to apply myself to the best of my ability.
In Vayikra 10:16, the words "darosh darash" ("inquired insistently" [literally: "inquire he inquired"]) mark the halfway point by word count in the Torah. In fact, in many Chumashim the phrase "Half of the words of the Torah" is written in small print between the words darosh and darash. The Degel Machaneh Ephraim explained that this hints to the fact that the Torah sheh b'ksav (Written Torah) is only half of the Torah. The other half of the Torah can be found in the Torah sheh b'al peh. (Oral Torah); the part of the Torah where the Rabbis "inquired insistently" to expound upon the meaning of the Torah sheh b'ksav.
I constantly remind myself that one who learns Chumash without learning Gemara is only learning half of the Torah. I daven that Hashem opens my mind and my heart to be able to better understand, appreciate, and be successful in learning Gemara. I hope that someday I will at least be able to get to the level of the 10 year-old yeshiva bocher.