Talmud Study Now Mandatory in South Korea


south-korea-gemaraClose to 50 million people live in South Korea, and everyone learns Gemara in school. “We tried to understand why the Jews are geniuses, and we came to the conclusion that it is because they study Talmud,” said the Korean ambassador to Israel. And this is how “Rav Papa” became a well known scholar in Korea like in Israel.

Ynet reports: It is doubtful if the Amoraic scholars Abbaye and Rava imagined their discussions of Jewish law in the Beit Midrash in Babylon would be taught hundreds of years later in East Asia. Yet it turns out that the laws of an “egg born on a holiday” (“ביצה שנולדה ביום טוב”) is actually very interesting to the South Koreans who have required that Talmud study be part of their compulsory school curriculum.

Almost every home in South Korea now contains a Korean-translated Talmud. But unlike in Israel, the Korean mothers teach the Talmud to their children. In a country of close to 49 million people who believe in Buddhism and Christianity, there are more people who read the Talmud – or at least own their own copy at home – more than in the Jewish state. Much more.

“So we too will become geniuses.”

“We were very curious about the high academic achievements of the Jews,” explains Israel’s ambassador to South Korea, Young Sam Mah, that was a host on the program “culture today.”

“Jews have a high percentage of Nobel laureates in all fields: literature, science and economics. This is a remarkable achievement. We tried to understand what is the secret of the Jewish people? How they – more than other people – are able to reach those impressive accomplishments? Why are Jews so intelligent? The conclusion we arrived at is that one of your secrets is that you study the Talmud.”

“Jews study the Talmud at a young age, and it helps them, in our opinion, to develop mental capabilities. This understanding led us to teach our children as well. We believe that if we teach our children Talmud, they will also become geniuses. This is what stands behind the rationale of introducing Talmud Study to our school curriculum.”

Young says that he himself studied the Talmud at a very young age: “It is considered very significant study,” he emphasized. The result is that more Koreans have Talmud sets in their homes than Jews in Israel.

“I, for example, have two sets of the Talmud: the one my wife bought me, and the second was a gift from my mother.”

Groupies of Jews

Koreans don’t only like the Talmud because they see it as promoting genius, but because they found values that are ​​close to their hearts.

“In the Jewish tradition, family values ​​are important,” explains the South Korean Ambassador.

“You see it even today, your practice of the Friday evening family meal. In my country we also focus on family values. The respect for adults, respect and appreciation for the elderly parallels the high esteem in my country for the elderly.”

Another very significant issue is the respect for education. In the Jewish tradition parents have a duty to teach their children, and they devote to it lots of attention. For Korean parents, their children’s education is a top priority.

{Muqata/Ynet/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. It reminds me of the story of a King passing by a Jewish village and smelled the irresistible aroma of Gefilta Fish. Upon returning to his castle, he ordered his top chef, to find out everything about that Gefilta fish and make it for him. No can do! After failed attempts, the king ordered the lady before him, asking for the secret recipe to the Gefilta fish. The lady responded, that there was not secret, it was simply made for the Honor Of Shabbos. While it is interesting that the Koreans want to learn Talmud, the Torah is a way of LIFE, not “become a genius” in five easy Tractates. Moshiach can not be to far away!

  2. The only thing is…they don’t have a yiddishe neshama and it won’t effect them the way it does us!!!!
    So….the genuis will remain where it belongs…with us!!!
    The ability to go in the whole analysis of the Talmud requires a yiddishe neshama…..so….try as you may…don’t think they will be so successful…..

  3. P.S….since the nations of the world refused to accept the Torah when it was offered…they can study as much as they want…the Torah is Our gift from Hakodosh Boruch Hu…and therefore it will never do for them what is does for us!!!!!!

  4. I wonder what they will do with the gemara that says torah bagoim al ta’amin and that there is a chiyuv misa for a goy to learn torah shebaal peh. the shmooz (r bentzion shafer) makes an interesting point; jews aren’t smart ‘because’ they learn torah. Over 90 percent of nobel prizes given to jews were non religious jews (they ‘never’ learnt talmud). Jews by ‘nature’ who have a soul aspire to ‘grow’ and when they grow in things even other that torah, they become great at those things as well.

  5. There is a reason many of our greatest sages teachings are never written down but rather passed down to their talmidim. Oral Torah is NOT for the nations and should NOT be written down!

  6. Since they don’t have the chiyuv of Talmud Torah, it won’t have the same spiritual effect for them that it does for us. But if it leads the South Koreans to develop intellectually and morally (as they say they want) and causes them to respect our people and traditions, then I’m all in favor.

    Actually, a paralell situation is the practice is the modern Orthodox community of women learning gemarra. Women don’t have the chiyuv of Talumd Torah, but Rav Y.D. Soloveitchik ZTZ”L and many of his talmidim hold that if it helps women grow in their yiddishkeit, it is to be encouraged.

  7. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating. But that is NOT the reason why Jews are clever. I don’t think any of the Nobel prize winners learnt Gemoroh!

  8. I hope they don’t chew gum while learning.

    Of course, Korean versions differ from the original text: Shnayim Ochzen B’Tarris; Aeru Metzius, Mayaymosay colin…..Hadlon……

  9. and they really think they’re learning ‘Talmud’…

    Without the tradition, without the backgound, they’re getting maybe 20% of the content.

  10. funny as kishke. but anyway, most of the celebrated secular jews never studied talmud.
    just plain genetically smart. sorry.

  11. This will probably be the first time that it will be mutar for the participants of a siyum mesechta to eat treif at the siyum!

  12. This article doesn’t really make sense. Most of the Jewish Nobel winners never picked up a Gemara. Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr,Otto Meyerhof, and Otto Wallach to name a few, were not religious. I doubt they studied the gemara at all. That goes for most of the other winners as well.

  13. to #2

    The Gemara (Shabbos 119a) relates how Reb Yehoshua ben Chananya served a Roman officer some Shabbos food. When the officer took the recipe, his chef was unable to imitate the distinct flavor of the dish. Reb Yehoshua revealed to the officer: “We have a special tavlin – spice, called Shabbos.” (i.e. the holiness of Shabbos gives the food a special flavor, which cannot be duplicated during the week.)

  14. Unfortunately those Jews who won Nobel prizes in their respective fields didn’t learn Gemorah.

    I think that may put a dent in the theory

  15. A goy who learns Torah is chayov misa. Watch out South Korea, since there is no Beis Din anymore, Hashem will have to take care of things, if you get my drift.

  16. Don’t be so sure that Jewish Nobel laureates didn’t learn Gemarra. Dozens of Jews have won the prize, and I’m not sure how many of them are religious. I know for certain that Robert Aumann, an Israeli Nobel winning economist, is Orthodox and proudly wears a beard and kippah. Others like Isaac Bashevis Singer and Elie Wiesel were raised in very religious homes and defintely learned Gemarra in their youth. While both migrated away from strict Orthodoxy, both maintained a positive attitude toward the Torah world.

  17. Very doubtful that the Koreans have translated the entire Talmud in to Korean (a monumental undertaking requiring Talmudic scholars spending years working on it) Nor do I believe that any one there really would spend much time learning it if it were to be translated.
    Nope, don’t buy it.

  18. “Unfortunately those Jews who won Nobel prizes in their respective fields didn’t learn Gemorah. I think that may put a dent in the theory”

    Actually, I don’t think it does. Through “natural selection” for centuries upon centuries, the most prized men in the Jewish community were those who learned gemara. While other nations couldn’t even read, Jewish kids understood advanced abstract economic terms (“present value” of future payments, whether one can sell the rights to a thing that will exist in the future, etc.). If you get enough centuries of this, the the smart kids — on average — having more children; the resulting population will be smarter.

  19. Does anyone in their right mind think a fifth grader in korea is learning eilu metzios?
    Maybe we should fly them in for the pirchei siyum mishnayos.

  20. Comment #30 from “marvls”:

    “If only Jewish parents in Israel and elsewhere would feel the same way as Korean parents!”

    Comment #32 from “love Jews”:

    “Sad. I bet some of these Koreans know more Gemara than many of unzere.”

    Comment #33 from “from here to there…”:

    “Could you imagine the outcry if the headline read:

    ‘Talmud Study Now Mandatory in Israel'”

    To these three remarks I say:

    “TRIPLE DITOES!!!!!!!!!”

  21. Very unfortunately, there is this strange phenomenon: Many of us Jews, especially those of us who are far away from Torah, have no interest in, disgard, and are even hostile to many aspects of our Torah HaKdosha. At the same time, many non-Jews have deep respect and great admiration for and sometimes even actually try to adopt these very beliefs and practices — of our Torah — that we ourselves are trying to run away from!!

    There is the very, very famous joke that clearly illustrates this point:

    A Jewish man (who is obviously not Torah observant at all) marries a non-Jewish woman. A few days after the wedding, on a Saturday morning, the telephone (in the new couple’s home) rings. The man answers; on the line is his father who is calling from the family business. He exclaims to his son:


    So the man replies to his father:


  22. A few months ago, at http://matzav.com/making-a-kiddush-hashem-social-issues-and-politics, Matzav published a long article (that I had compiled) about a very serious part of this problem. This is that regarding current social issues, numerous conservative Christian groups are the ones who are trying to speak out against and oppose the many wicked trends that are ruining contemporary society.

    Thumping the verses of the Holy Bible, they request that the science classes of our schools (instead of the atheism of Evolution) teach our children: “In the beginning, G-D created the heaven and the earth.” Thumping the verses of the Holy Bible, they declare that abortion and Toeiva and other decadence and corruption are very terrible things that the laws of our country must not permit.

    In what is tragically a clear horrific Chillul HaShem, non-Torahdike JEWISH groups are often in the forefront of pushing for full outright allowance and acceptance and even support of these immoral ways of living. Likewise, these non-Torahdike JEWISH groups are often in the forefront of demanding the most extreme absolute total removal of the word “G-D” from the public schools.

  23. A couple of years ago, I saw the following sick Chillul HaShem:

    Right after the celebrations of the State of Israel’s 60th anniversary in May 2008, I saw on the C-Span TV channel a replay of the film of the special session held in the Knesset. The President of the United States, former President George Walker Bush, who had traveled all the way to Israel for the special occasion, gave an address. In his speech, he mentioned G-D many times. The President of Israel, President Shimon Peres, gave an address. In his speech, he mentioned G-D maybe one or two times. Of course, the Prime Minister of Israel, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, gave an address. In his speech, HE DID NOT MENTION THE WORD G-D EVEN ONCE!!!!

  24. the Jewish Nobel peace prize winners are smart because their religious forefathers who loved Ha Shem and Torah genetically handed them brilliance that they did not have to work for. This blessing is still being manifested today regardless of the religious mindset of the Nobel peace prize winners.

    This is a living and undeniable testimony to the love and integrity of G-d toward the Jewish people.

    Know therefore that the ADONI thy G-d, he [is] G-d, the faithful G-d, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; Deut. 7:9

  25. I need to correct the comment number 2. it was not about the Gefilta fish because Gefilta fish does not have that much of aroma to impress the king from outside, but it was a middle easternian ( sefaradic) spicy Shabot food called Gondi that stopped the king.

  26. Re: comment #48, “TRIPLE DITOES!!!!!!!!!”

    Jews are smart. So I tripled di toes. Now I have 30 toes (some say 29, others say 31). Now what? I no feel smarter yet….

  27. I am Korean myself and I learned Talmud when I was young but I read Aesop fables as well as Confucian texts and Korean philosophers teachings. This article is obviously exaggerated as I can assure you that Talmud is not close to being required or made mandatory in korea. We admire some of jewish values but we are not idolizing them as the article makes it out to be

  28. I would tend to agree with Moonah from Korea there. It seems that Koreans got a translation of mostly Agadatah from a translation in Japanese. It is very unlikely they learn chavruta style or as a learning basis and source for civil law. Nor would I expect them to have such high opinion of Jews and Israel in such a common way there as the article seems to say. I would think that the translation is very much Koreanized. I also doubt very much that there is any worry about chilul hashem or whatever…