Not quite the text I had in mind

I believe in learning from texts, seeing texts inside, and close reading for understanding the nuances of meaning.  That is why people should actually read the chumash  and navi rather than just listening to lectures about them, inspiring as the lectures may be.  But there are texts that we study and texts that I wouldn't consider as the subjects of a classroom discussion.

Yesterday my daughter asked how the extra lo ta'ases derabanan can be added when the Torah prohibits additions, as well as subtractions.  This was a discussion the teacher brought up to offer the answer that the siyagim are there to protect us.  To illustrate the point, she distributed a photocopy of a piece by Sara Yocheved Rigler that appeared in Binah Magazine. In a nutshell, the author relates her amazement at the closed roads, fences, hotline, and guard all put in to protect a Monk seal that had just had a pup.  Then she comes to the realization that the extra fences put in by the rabbis functions in the same manner -- as protection.  She says that sometimes we find these things tiresome, but we have to realize they are there for a purpose.  She offers examples of derabanans like waiting 6 hours between eating meat and milk.  She also mentions how inconvenient the prohibition of yichud can be when the plumber only comes around at 6 PM when your husband is out of town.  OK, anyone else catch that?  The prohibition of yichud for a married woman is actually deoraytha.  It is only for single women that it is derabanan.  In any case, there are ways to make a repairman visit not yichud, especially if one has children in the house.

Bottom line:  I'd rather the teacher focuses on the texts of the Tanach, its meforshim, or even seforim on Torah sheba'al peh that address these issues of halacha directly with truly grounded sources rather than through a personal experience that may be seen as a subjective form of revelation.  My comfort in this is that our daughter, of her own accord, said she didn't like the story.  And she hadn't even grasped the error about yichud in it!  If the kids want to read Binah on their own, that's fine -- and I admit it would be a better choice than many other magazines out there -- but it is not Torah miSinai and should not take time away from studying what is.  Would this ever go over in a boy's yeshiva?  I know my son would be livid if the rebbe would take away time from Gemara to discuss a magazine article.  He's upset enough as it is that there is a beur tefilla class in high school.

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Mrs. S. said…
I agree with you. What a waste of classroom time that could be much better used to study primary sources and to develop skills!
Abba's Rantings said…
i think it's great your son has a beur tefilla class. i'm teaching a kid for his bar mitzvah right now. by all acounts he is really good in gemara, but as far as i can tell he can't tranlate a simple prose section of chumash (i'm talking about basic teiching without anything even resembling accuracy) and he has no idea what the tefillos mean.

last year i looked at a coed elementary school. the principal mentioned that when the boys have gemera the girls have a tefilla class. i didn't quite understand why boys don't have to understand the tefillos
Ariella said…
You're right that boys should understand what they're saying as well as girl. But 11th grade is rather late for that.

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