04 June 2012

"Talmud Torah Kenegged Kulam": What Is תלמוד תורה כנגד?

Considering תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם
The first mishnah in tractate Peah curiously begins with a duo of non-prescriptive/halakhic statements, the second of which is the following:
ואלו דברים שאדם אוכל מפירותיהן בעולם הזה, והקרן קיימת לו לעולם הבא--כיבוד אב ואם, וגמילות חסדים, והבאת שלום בין אדם לחברו; ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם
And these things that a person eats of their fruits in this world, and the principle remains for the world to come: honoring mother and father, kindness-giving, and bringing peace between a person and one's fellow; and the study of Torah is equivalent to all of these.
     It is an obvious matter that when a pronoun mentions "them" as a part of a listing, it refers to other elements in said listing.  Thus, in mPeah 1:1, the study of Torah (talmud Torah) is equivalent to honoring one's parents, acting on kindness-giving, and bringing peace between people.  
     For some reason, I've often heard that this phrasing of "תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם" is not meant merely in direct reference with the rest of the sentence, but also with all other interpersonal positive commandments.  Moreover, there are those who go beyond seeing תלמוד תורה as having the same weight as all other interpersonal commandments, but as all other commandments in Judaism.  It's a strange couple of leaps from the context of interpersonal commandments in the mishnah, but, for some reason, it keeps getting mentioned this way and not the way the framers of the Mishnah intended it.

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