RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Perkei Avot
By: Yehudah ben Shomeyr
“Rabbi Eliezer [the son of] Chisma would say: the laws of kinin and the laws of menstrual periods---these, these are the meat of Halachah (Torah law). The calculations of solar seasons and gematria are the condiments of wisdom.”
“The laws of bird-offerings (see Lev. 12:8), and the laws regarding the beginning of menstrual periods. These are areas of study which may appear to be an unworthy or unattractive subject for the true scholar. The Mishnah therefore emphasizes that no study of Torah law is to be taken lightly – such laws are essential. Similarly, other pursuits such as astronomy, mathematics – or according to some, the mystical study numerical values of Hebrew letters – are ‘seasonings of wisdom.’ These disciplines should be studied only after one has ‘filled his stomach’ with the study of Torah…” – Art Scroll’s commentary of the Perkei Avot.
It’s like you have to eat your vegetables before you can have dessert. Dessert doesn’t mean as much or isn’t as good without the hearty meal before hand.
Also, if one studies these ‘icing on the cake’ type of subjects without first a working, grounded knowledge of the essentials, first you will not understand these things and may come off with incorrect or dangerous doctrine from it.
-- Yehudah ben Shomyer