Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What Is To Be Done With The Yeshiva?

An editorial in the current issue of The Commentator (link) calls for two minor changes in the Mazer Yeshiva Program:
1) Independent undergraduate Gemara study
2) Formal Bible study outside of the college

I strongly disagree with both suggestions. There already exists an option for independent Gemara study and it is called "Night Seder". Everyone needs guidance and someone only a year or two out of high school needs a rebbe. The simple truth is that no one becomes a talmid chakham by solely following the official curriculum. But you won't become one by neglecting it either. You have to add on more. In my day, the first question on the first test that R. Mayer Twersky asked his first year students was to list all of their set times for learning and their subject matters. I know he looked at it carefully because he gave me feedback. If you want to develop your learning skills you should do so in the way you will for the rest of your life -- finding time at all hours of the day. If an undergrad is serious about his learning then he will find extra time for it. Don't tell me that you're pre-med and have no time for a night seder. Find the time. If you can't, then you should be in sh'iur anyway.

What's the rush with you kids anyway? Take it from an old man - you'll have the rest of your lives to learn without a rebbe. Don't waste your opportunity now to study under a master. You will regret it.

2) You want to learn Tanakh? Here's a suggestion: early morning seder. Spend a half hour before davening every day learning Tanakh with the Metzudos. Once you've finished a large chunk, you'll gain greater appreciation for the truly excellent college Bible courses that are available to you.

What do you do Fridays? Maybe you should divide the time: half to Gemara and half to Tanakh and Machasheves Yisrael. You'd be surprised how much you can accomplish with one hour a week. And what about Saturday nights? During the winter you've got huge chunks of time to learn whatever you want. And Shabbos? Spend it in the beis midrash.

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