HOWTO: Learning Likutei Halachos
In honor of Reb Noson’s yahrtzeit (10 Teves), I would like to make a new start in studying Likutei Halachos. But what can I do that I can’t get myself to connect with it?
Reb Noson once said that his work, Likutei Halachos, is Gan Eden itself.
If Likutei Halachos is “Gan Eden”, then anything said to convince someone to study it would seemingly be unnecessary. Does a person need to be convinced to go into Gan Eden? Anybody who could would just roll up his sleeves and push himself in.
What’s preventing us is that we have many feelings causing us to imagine that it’s not Gan Eden. We feel as If we don’t understand Likutei Halachos, or we are not seeing the benefit of learning it, along with many other feelings which keep us away from studying this holy Sefer. If we see that our overall Torah study is not so strong, all the more so do the difficulties becomes more intense in relation to setting aside time to learn the holy Likutei Halachos. There is a war at stake over here, the battle over our very souls. Our heavenly antagonists are not as concerned with our health and livelihood as much as not letting us bring into our minds and hearts the teachings of Reb Noson, through which we can already taste Gan Eden in our lifetime.
Of course, each of us has certainly seen pieces here and there in Likutei Halachos which seemed simpler to understand, which we found inspiring. But this is not always what we find. Many times we can read several pages and have no idea what he is trying to say. Sometimes we understand the encouragement which he is saying, but we don’t find a way how to truly bring these ideas into our hearts in order to cause a practical change in our lives. Very quickly we can come to the conclusion that perhaps this is not for me.
The solution for all of this is to be diligent in studying Likutei Halachos every day, page after page, until one starts to grasp a little of the light which is hidden in his words.
It is just like in studying Gemara. In the 5th grade we started ‘Elu Metziyos’, and afterwards we went to ‘HaKones’ and to other chapters in Bava Kama. Only when we were older and went to Yeshiva did we go back to ‘Elu Metziyos’, and we then saw in it totally new things which we hadn’t begun to understand in 5th grade. But it’s clear that the understanding which we have when we are in Yeshiva is only as a result of what we started in the 5th grade.
We have to start setting aside time to learn Likutei Halachos. In the beginning we don’t understand, but certainly every few pages we will find some encouragement or inspiration for something. When we will persist to keep on studying, each time we learn we will start understanding more and more. We don’t always feel it immediately, but just like by Gemara, the way to start understanding is to study again and again, until with time we begin to grasp the path.
We just have to break through in the beginning, to get to know the Sefer. That’s why it’s wise to study with a constant fixed schedule. But even if you miss a day or two, start again, again and again, and don’t be worried. The Sefer always belongs to each one of us, and we just have to open it and to study from it.
Another point we should mention is that someone who wants to enter into a deeper understanding of Likutei Halachos should take one Halachah and learn it slowly, without any rush to finish. Learn it piece by piece, and try to attach the ideas together, until you know one Halachah well. You will then begin to see how each word of Likutei Halachos is a diamond, and not a single word is superfluous.
Reb Noson writes in his introduction to Likutei Halachos, “This is something which the youth must know very well, and their teachers and Rabbis are obligated to teach them, that they should not be nervous or scared of a long Dvar Torah. They should put themselves into learning it from the beginning, in order, little by little. They should tie one idea together until they understand it a little, and afterwards they can go further, step by step, from idea to idea, from subject to subject, until they finish a page. They can then continue, in order, from one idea to another, without anxiety or confusion. Thus, they can understand even a very long Drush, even if they are not very intelligent.”
But we should mention a piece of advice for those attempting this, which is that since every Drush in Likutei Halachos is based on a Torah in Likutei Moharan, if possible, it would be worth looking into that Torah. At the same time, it’s not good to get held up if you don’t understand something. This is the reason why many people stop learning Likutei Halachos. You can also understand a lot even if you didn’t first learn the Torah.
Of course, it is recommended that anyone who can should find a study partner, someone who already has a feeling for Likutei Halachos. If you can’t find someone to learn with, you should at least not be embarrassed to find someone to ask questions and with whom to clarify things. It is also good to hear lessons and to work out ideas from Likutei Halachos with friends. (Not in the form of arguments and debates, but rather practical ideas how to withstand tests and how to renew our enthusiasm for Avodas Hashem).
With time, you will learn new concepts, and your connection to the Sefer will be strengthened. And you will understand a little what the taste of Gan Eden is and you will begin to grasp that a well of pure water is flowing underneath us, and we just have to take a cup and drink.
There are two paths before us: 1) To break the distance which many people feel from Likutei Halachos by setting time aside to study it, day after day, page after page. Jump into it, and with time you will see how your understanding grows. 2) To take one Halachah and to learn it slowly and with reflection.
It is known that the main way in which Reb Noson became close to the Rebbe was in merit of the Shabbos nights, when after he partook in the Rebbe’s tish he was inspired with great longing for Hashem. We can also have a taste of the Rebbe’s tish through our studying Likutei Halachos, which will awaken within us a yearning for Hashem. We can then tell Hashem of our longing, and to sing to Him and praise Him. Especially with the radiance of the Holy Shabbos which has the power to give us understanding and feeling in what is said in Likutei Halachos, and to spend an hour or two Shabbos night studying this holy Sefer.
The time before dawn is also an opportune time for studying Likutei Halachos – to get up before davening and to learn for half an hour. The davening afterwards will be entirely different.
Remember – The main way to come close to the Tzaddik is through learning his Torah. Let us be strong to make a fresh start to taste from this Gan Eden.