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Ten Graded Classes of Torah Apprehension

As the Torah consists of words and meanings, individuals fall into 10 classes of apprehending this wisdom.

The first learn the Five books of Moses and the Propthets and Writings, and do not understand, and are satisfied with that. They don't know the meanings or the grammar. They are akin to a donkey laden with books.

The second class have tried to read correctly, paid heed to the vowels and concentrate on positions of accents. They are puncuators and standardizers.

The third class have found the previous levels insufficient and strive to know principles behind punctuation and musical accentation. They also strive to know the correct use of languate and grammar. Nouns, verbs, modifiers, prepositions, conjunctions, adverbs, construct and absolute forms (of nouns and adjectives), use of future to express the past and infinitive to express the imperative, the various classes of verbs (complete, all three letters sounded, defective, one letter omitted, silent, one or two letters not sounded, duplicate, verbs with second and third letters the same. The apparent and the hidden, closed and open syllables, closed ending in a consonant, open ending in a vowel.

The fourth class have advanced beyond these and are able to explain words of doubtful meaning in the Scriptures, and have advanced in their understanding of the plain sense of the text. They have also investigated the figurative and the literal meaning of the words in the Hebrew language; homonyms and synonyms, derivative nouns (derived from other words), primary nouns, foreign nouns, and so with adjectives and verbs.

The fifth class have advanced beyond the preceding in their knowledge of the subject matter of the Holy Scriptures, have sought to understand its fundamental principles and have endeavoured to investigate the metaphorical sense and the true meaning of its contents with regard, for instance, to the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible. These are the expositors of the divinely inspired books according to the plain meaning without reference to the traditional interpretation.

The sixth class leans on the ancient traditions contained in the Mishnah, so they have attained knowledge of some of the laws, commands, and juridical rules without studying the Talmud.

The seventh class have added intense study of the Talmud and devoted themselves to the knowledge of its text, reading the decisions without attempting to answer its questions or clearing up its difficulties.

The eighth class exerted themselves to comprehend and resolve difficult points of the Talmudic authorities, and elucidate the obscurities, but with the purpose of winning a name and glory. But they ignore the duties of the heart. They pay no attention what would be detrimental to their religious and moral activities. They spend their days in the study of singular deductions from the legal principles and of what is strange and difficult in the final decisions. They cite the conflicting views of the Talmudic authorities on novel points of law while they neglect topics which they have no right to do - topics that affect their spiritual interests which it is their duty to investigate, such as the truth of the prophet's signs and of tradition, and the modes ny which it can be demonstrated; the obbligation which the Creator has imposed upon us to adduce with our reasoning faculties proofs of His existence and to serve Him with a perfect heart, and many similar points that can be intellectually apprehended and which I will explain in this treatise.

to be continued

From Duties of the Heart book 1 p 218-220 Bachya Ibn Paquda Torah Classics Library. Shaar Avodas Elokim Ch 4

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