Posted on November 2, 2011 by Lauren Schuchart
Now that the biggest chunk of Jewish holidays is over, we are finally settling into a rhythm at school.
Personally, I feel like I’m getting into the swing of things, and starting to really understand the many benefits of studying Jewish texts. One of the most unique components of Jewish learning that I’ve come to love is the tradition of studying in pairs, or havruta learning.
While the word havruta comes from the same root as the Hebrew word for “friend,” a havruta is a very unique relationship. Generally, a havruta is someone who is at a similar Hebrew level as you, with whom you can translate and uncover different meanings of the text. An ideal havruta is someone who challenges you and makes you think in new ways, and who shares their ideas and insight.
We spend half of our study time in the classroom, hearing a lecture, and the other half studying with our havruta. So, it’s very important to find a good match, as you will spend a lot of hours together. These past few weeks have been a scramble to find the perfect havruta.
I’ve found that finding your havruta is a bit like dating.
The first day, in one of my classes, our teacher asked us to go around the room and say (1) what we are looking for in a havruta, and (2) what we feel like we can bring to a havruta.
The responses ranged from “I’m a good listener,” to “I want someone who brings out the best in me.” It sounded like a bad eHarmony commercial (I made this joke in class, which got a few chuckles, and maybe a few check-marks in the “possible-havruta?” column).
We were encouraged to “shop around,” and work with a lot of different people, in order to find the best match. Students often went to their teachers (match-makers?) for advice. One can imagine the awkward social interactions that go on when the havruta isn’t working out for one person.
“This just really isn’t working out for me anymore…”
“I think you’re great. I really do. I just…want to see what else is out there…”
“It’s not you…it’s me…”
“Kissing you feels like kissing my sister…”
Ok, just kidding on the last one.
And sometimes your havruta-finding skills attract the attention of others. Someone might ask you, “oh, who is your havruta in that class?” “Rebecca Farbowitzsteinberg.” “Ooo, NICE.”
In all seriousness, I find that I’m really loving havruta learning. I didn’t think that I would at first, and even tried to find crafty ways to work on my own (that only lasted about 10 minutes, when teachers found me in the corner by myself). This type of learning challenges me, and forces me to think in a new way.
I have a different havruta for each class, and I find that I enjoy working with each person for a different reason. Some are patient. Some keep me focused. Some inspire me to think differently. Some I like to argue with. These are all good things, and I’m grateful to have found partners who bring out the best in my learning.
Now… if only my actual dating life was this successful (ba-bum-ching!).