By: Rabbi Avrohom Adler
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The Mishna states: Gold can acquire silver, but silver cannot acquire gold.
The Pappa Rav opened the winter zman with the following thought: The Torah is likened to gold and to silver. It is compared to gold, as it is written [Tehillim 19:11]: Torah is to be desired more than gold, even more than very fine gold. It is compared to silver, as it is written [Mishlei 2:4]: If you seek it like silver. It is also written [Tehillim 119:72]: The Torah of your mouth is better for me than thousands of gold and silver.
Now, one’s primary focus should be on learning in depth, using all his full capacity of his mind and thoughts. It is through this that a person will have the ability to negate evil thoughts that might enter his mind, for the nature of man is that he cannot concentrate on two different things at the same time. Accordingly, if one delves into the depths of the holy Torah, he will most certainly be protected from all which is evil This is when the Torah is likened to gold, for gold is untainted and pure.
However, it is impossible to consistently study on such a level, and one has an obligation to learn the entire breadth of the Torah. The Gemora in Shabbos (63a) teaches us that a man should study and subsequently understand (the understanding will come eventually). Studying Torah at a quicker pace is likened to silver, for although silver is also valuable, it is nevertheless less significant than gold.
This is what our Gemora meant when it stated that Rebbe in his youth taught that silver acquires gold, but when he was older, he taught that gold acquires silver. Initially he thought that one should diligently study at a swift pace in order that he should learn the entire Torah even if he will lack understanding. However, when he aged, he came to the realization that gold acquires silver, and one’s primary learning should be focused on the depths and understanding of Torah.