“It’s so appropriate that we are in this week’s parsha…”
Really? I’m skeptical. In fact, when I hear that phrase in a d’var Torah I fluff up the shoulder next to me and hit the snooze button. Why? Because I anticipate I am about to get a contrived connection between this week’s parashah and some contemporary or personal event.
So to allay your fears, today I’m justifying my d’var employs proto-midrash, also called intertextuality. Intertextuality is an approach I learned from Baruch Feldstern, my teacher. I could call it an inversive, or reversive sequel, a la gaon Judy Klitsner. The concept is that Tanakh drashes on itself. Continue reading →
Part of the Educators Program is to do sessions of peer teaching. This means that each person has a session/lesson that they teach to the other educators.
Today was my first experience in being in a session. (We actually had two today because the teacher was sick last week, so she also did her lesson this week.) And wow! I learned so much from the sessions. First, as a student, I really learned the material. The first lesson was about Rosh HaShana, blowing the shofar, and when and why we do it. The teacher had us go to four different stations and listen to different audio bytes that represented the four different times/meanings of blowing the shofar. His pedagogy was really outstanding and he had a great presence in the classroom.
The second lesson was about Daniel and comparing the first two chapters of the book to Joseph’s story when he tells Pharaoh the meaning of his dreams. She had a good graphic organizer and really taught me about Daniel, a character that I only knew existed because a lot of people are named “Daniel.”
Both teachers were so different and yet so good. They both had such a strong teacher voice. They were patient and intuitive. I loved it! I am excited to get back into the classroom!
Having recently returned to studying at Pardes I have noticed that there are two basic types of Jewish pedagogy. There are countless Jewish texts, from the Torah to the most obscure commentaries, but regardless of the source being drawn on, a teacher can choose to present an idea or set of ideas in one of two basic ways. The ideas can be presented as the teacher’s own addition to the ‘marketplace of ideas’ — open to debate and discussion, as well as to revision upon revisiting the source in question or other sources that may come to bear upon it. Conversely, they could be presented as a more polished set of thoughts about a given subject, with only marginal room given to debate or constructive criticism.
Given this basic division, and the fundamental truth of the idiom ‘two Jews, three opinions’ it is slightly surprising that the more common of the two methods, by far in the Jewish world at large, is the latter, manifesting itself in what is known as the dvar torah. On all festive occasions in the Jewish calendar it is a custom for someone, both at synagogue and around the table of a festive meal, to share a dvar torah. And while it may be the case that in the privacy of one’s home there will be more room for further discussion, definitely when given in a communal setting, little discussion is encouraged. Living surrounded by the beauty that is created and fostered when many diverse voices are allowed to engage in dialogue about Jewish texts, I see it as a profound shame that more discussion and debate is not encouraged and built into the very way in which we share ideas about Jewish texts.