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Thought for the Day: Four Kinds of Talmidim

The mishna says there are four kinds of talmidim:
  1. Learns easily, forgets easily; his loss outweighs the benefit.
  2. Learns with difficulty, does not easily forget; his benefit outweighs the loss.
  3. Learns easily, does not easily forget; he has a good portion.
  4. Learns with difficulty, forgets easily; he has a bad portion.
My chavrusa was bothered by a simple question: What's the chidush?  Basically a student is defined by someone who is learning and is judged by how much he retains, so this seems to be a very straightforward "all possible combinations to two characteristics".  He was in good company; the Rav was also bothered.  The Rav says there are two chidushim here.  First, if you have only enough money to support one talmid, the mishna says to support the one who, even though he learns slowly, he doesn't forget easily.  That is, retention is more important factor than how fast you can zip through the material.  (That made me feel better, as I am on something like the "daf chodshi or more" program.)  The second chidush is that whereas the other mishnayos in this series label the extremes as "chasid" and "rasha", in this case the mishna merely says "bad portion" and "good portion".  The Rav notes that it is not relevant to assign the title of "chasid" and "rasha" to a characteristic that does not depend on one's free will.  Achievement is no indicator of success, the only measure of a person is how he chooses to use the resources allotted to him.

Followup from yesterday: for those of you wondering what a 34/21 anniversary is: it means that my wife married the old, non-jewish version of me 34 years ago and the new/improved version 21 years ago.  Interestingly enough, it "just happened" that my conversion came out on our anniversary.  But that's another story.


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