Is It Really True That Study Is More Important Than Action?

Ayin Tove
Is It Really True That Study Is More Important Than Action?
August 27, 2010

The Talmud is often quoted as saying that study is more important than action because it leads to action. (Megillah 40b). However, the Talmud also teaches that where knowledge exceeds deeds, it is like a tree with many branches and few roots – – the tree is easily toppled. But where deeds exceed knowledge, it is like a tree with many roots – – it can withstand the wind and soak up water. (Avot 3:22; also Avot 3:12).

Also, on Rosh Hashanah we are told that the book of our deeds is opened for remembering what we have done this year. We do learn from the Talmud that all of our deeds are recorded in a book. (Avot 2:1). I think of this as a metaphor which tracks what happened in the Purim story: Mordechai told the King of a plot to assassinate him. The King woke up in the middle of the night and had the official deeds read to him, and he is told of the good deed Mordechai did, and has Haman design a reward for Mordechai. Interestingly, even though this makes Haman jealous, Haman already had it in for the Jews. (Esther 6:1-11). In this way, I think of the idea of our deeds being recorded in a book as a metaphor. The King may read the book, and we may read the book, to remember what happened.

I also tend to think of being written in the Book of Life (“On Rosh Hashanah it is written”) as a metaphor – – to be alive is to be spiritually alive. Mordechai and Haman have free will. It’s better to be Mordechai, though Haman can cause trouble. The King appreciates what we’ve done, whether or not that protects us from Haman. In any case, deeds are important – – to remember and to do. The metaphor is a nice vehicle to help us realize this.

Ayin Tove is a contributing writer for Gather The Jews.

1 reply
  1. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    Editor’s note:

    Study is necessary but not sufficient for the good life. If you’re forever studying, and it doesn’t translate to positive action, then the value of the study is significantly lessened.

    But study is necessary for positive action. Think before you jump?


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