Defending the Traditional Beis Medrash Curriculum – at YU and Everywhere Else

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76 Responses

  1. Yair Daar says:

    Everything you write here is AN approach. Not THE approach. You are definitely explaining why YU and many other traditional yeshivot follow the methodology that they do. The issue that Netanel Paley brings up is how such an approach does not hit home with many frum Jews. The overemphasis of this approach ignores a large percentage of Torah learners who – for a number of reasons – do not connect to such a philosophy of Talmud Torah.

    The standard response to raising this issue is “sorry they don’t connect to this way of doing things, but Talmud Torah is not meant to make you feel good.” This response – defining what you call “lishma” as ״ the ONLY way to truly become a meaningful link in the great Mesorah of Torah״ is both wrong and very disheartening to hear. (For example, Rambam writes in the Mishna Torah that תלמוד תורה is כנגד כולם because it is מביא לידי מעשה).

    Rav Gordimer, there is one article I would love to see from you one of these days. I would love to hear an explanation of how you know that what you call “Mesorah” is actually the true Mesorah as opposed to an approach to Yiddishkeit that is just as legitimate as many others. I don’t mean to disparage your opinion or approach, but I have a hard time with anyone saying “this is the authentic way” (within limits of course).

    • mycroft says:

      Whoever advised making the argument for any position based on “mesorah” that only certain people who are claimed to be a bar hachi has made a big mistake. This is especially so because the leader of those making that claim can probably win many of the arguments based on halachik arguments.
      What is especially amusing about the “mesorah” argument is that among others who have made the comment that current RIETS leadership has a revisionist approach to RYBS is Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein. Certainly, most of the current leaders of RIETS attended the Ravs shiur but they are not following his mesorah. BTW if one wants one accurate source for the Ravs mesorah read Community Covenant and Commitment..

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in relevant part:

        ” BTW if one wants one accurate source for the Ravs mesorah read Community Covenant and Commitment.”

        Community Covenant and Committment is only part of RYBS’s Mesorah. The same RYBS who wrote the letters in the above referenced book also gave amazing shiurim, drashos and gave Orthodoxy the intellectual and spiritual weight to withstand the onslaught of CJ and demonstrated the profundity of Torah study and observance. The same RYBS also had his chumras, kullas, and hanhagos, which were also as much of the total personae of RYBS as his philosophical writings.

  2. lacosta says:

    when was this “traditional “yeshiva machzor”” put in place? 800 years ago? 1600 years ago?

  3. joel rich says:

    See Rav Soloveitchik’s take back in ’65 see: (Page 93 ff in Community,Covenant and Commitment”
    KT

    • mycroft says:

      Note the Rav despite being descended from leaders of Volozhin did not believe that slavishly following the European model was a best method for US.

    • dr. bill says:

      Unfortunately it never really happened. I wonder why?

      • mycroft says:

        Some aspects of it did happen-RIETS instituted a Machshevet Israel program for those who were not in Kollel or taking a masters. One of its courses was Jewish philosophy which coincidentally or not emphasized the thinkers mentioned by the Rav.

    • MItzvahman613 says:

      It seems as if Rav Soloveitchik was suggesting that these changes be made in the semicha program and not in the undergraduate learning programs due to some bureaucratic reasons (see bottom of page 102 to linked article), which in my opinion sadly exist, if not increased, today. The Rav was proposing that these changes be made for those studying to become Rabbis and thus need to be trained in answering day to day practical halachic shailos. He suggested that the curriculum be made for all levels of semicha students, but he was not suggesting that these changes be made to the whole yeshiva system for undergraduate students. (maybe he would make these changes even for them if not the for the limitations stated on the bottom of page 102)

    • Steve Brizel says:

      The linked letter was dated in 1955, which I am sure R Joel meant, as opposed to 1965. Just curious-can anyone tell us when RAL was appointed Rosh Kollel and if there are any links about that appointment?

    • Steve Brizel says:

      I attended a Hesped for R Moshe Twersky ZL, HaShem Yimkam Damo that was given by R H Reichman. In the course of the hesped, R Reichman mentioned that RYBS learned either Zevachim or Menachos with R Twersky ZL -inclusive of every Rashi, Tosfos, Rambam and Shitah Mkubetzes. Listen to the shiur on Gerus where RYBS described his seder halimud with his eineklach. How many of us even think of that hasmadah, let alone even think that RYBS  stayed up nights working out a Pshat in a sugya, in addition to his amazing philosophical writings.  Why shouldn’t we even think of emulating a Gadol BaTorah who understood the 20th Century and its challenges, but did not let that challenge minimize his committment to Talmud Torah.

  4. Charlie Hall says:

    The rabbis who are promoting the innovations that Rabbi Gordimer has spent so much time opposing for the most part learned in the very same beit midrash as Rabbi Gordimer.

  5. Yonatan says:

    How did my Rebbe’s picture get here?! HaRav Yaakov Peretz shlit”a!

  6. b says:

    Rabbi. Gordimer,
    I believe that the chayei adam and the mishna berurah in their hakdamos promote learning moed before the yeshivish mesachtos, and please also see kraina d’igrisa (letters from the Steipler) vol 2 letter 1. I learned in Lakewood yeshivos many years and am very bothered by this, but I’ve spoken to gedolim and they didn’t seem too bothered by it, so I’m not on a jihad to change the system based on my understanding.

  7. The notion that Torah lishmah means study purely for the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is not a tradition from Sinai or from Chazal or even from the Rishonim. It is the innovation of R. Chaim of Volozhin, as R. Norman Lamm demonstrates at great length in his book on that topic. If you look at the Rishonim, they define the goal of learning Torah as knowing how to do the mitzvos. “Lishmah” does not mean “for its own sake” – it means for the right motives. Torah lishmah is the opposite of Torah shelo lishmah. Shelo lishmah is learning it for honor or other nefarious motives. Lishmah means learning it for the correct motives.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      For those interested in a survey of the  views of Chasam Sofer, the Baal Shem Tov,  R Chaim Volozhiner , the Iglei Tal and the Beis HaLevi as well as the Bach and Ran as they understood Nedarim 81 see the discussion by R Asher Weiss in Minchas Asher in the special volume on Talmud Torah where at least Bach and Ran as well as Beis HaLevi understand that Talmud Torah cannot be approached as mere literature.

  8. dr. bill says:

    What gives limmud hatorah its uniqueness is its ability to incorporate continuous change and modification in methodology, focus and curriculum. The current yeshivish approach steers clear of psak, academic methodologies, philosophy, tanach, historical changes, etc. some of which are very hard to master. This approach is an important enabler of contemporary explosion in study that has had transformative religious impact. Starting gemara with Baba Metziah versus Berachos or Pesachim and the focus in RW yeshivot on so-called yeshivishe mesechtot is probably driven by a religious agenda as opposed to a pedagogic or practical one. However, I believe that MO institutions (are and) should create alternative curricula better suited to the entire spectrum of individuals that exist in a normative community.

    • mycroft says:

      “Starting gemara with Baba Metziah versus Berachos or Pesachim and the focus in RW yeshivot on so-called yeshivishe mesechtot is probably driven by a religious agenda as opposed to a pedagogic or practical one”

      Historical accident. The developed mesechtas were Moed,Nashim, Nezikin, which had the Halacha Lemaaseh information when Jews had autonomy and commercial dealings used Nezikin. Today even when parties go to a Bes Din overwhelmingly the choice of law is not Nezikin is what parties would have agreed by kinyan hasocharim. Halacha is Bes Din as a jurisdictional matter  required -choice of law is in general not part of requirement. Thus, Nezikin was developed not because of any idea of Torah Lishma but for over a 1000 years it was halacha lemaaseh-thus was  developed.

      Since developed RY know it best and naturally teach it to next generation even if not lemaaseh.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        It is well known that RMF  thought that the study of Nezikin, and especially such obvious Preakim as Hamafkid, and Elu Metziosm served a very important educational purpose-Yahadus is not limited solely to Brachos, Shabbos and the Moadim but has an overarching impact on all aspects of one’s life .

  9. Alex says:

    You can see the curriculum in Volozhin here: http://www.aishdas.org/asp/the-curriculum-at-volozhin

    In two years they learned all of Tanach with Rashi and Biur all of Mishnayos except for Seder Taharos; Masechtos Berachos, Shabbos, Eruvin, Pesachim, Chulin, Niddah, Yevamos, Kesuvos, Gittin, Kiddushin, all with the Rosh; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, Yoreh Deiah, and Even Ha’ezer; and all this aside from the study of Hebrew grammar, Russian, German, and arithmetic.

    Note how all their Gemara was learned with the Rosh – leaning towards halacha. Also note that the few “Yeshivish” masechtos were almost an afterthought.

    • David Ohsie says:

      Read the comments to that posting.   It is extremely unlikely that this accurately reflects what was studied.

      • Alex says:

        With regard to the secular studies, perhaps. The comments there are all referring to the secular studies. Indeed, it would make sense to falsify a secular studies curriculum. Why would they falsify the Torah studies part?

      • David Ohsie says:

        1) It is hard for me to know what they would have changed.  For example, they mentioned the Biur which is unlikely and might have been influenced by the notion of learning German and that might have influenced other aspects of the list.  This is speculation on my part, but shows what might have happened.

        2) The very fact that there was a curriculum at all, in the sense that we think of it, is questionable.

        3) If you scroll down, you’ll see that parts of the list don’t seem to match the source that they supposedly came from and the author of the post did not have access to the source that he used to generate his list.

      • Alex says:

        1) I could see why they might be motivated to include the Biur. But I don’t see any sense in falsifying which masechtos they learned and which rishonim they learned them with.

        2) Perhaps. But it still doesn’t explain why they chose the non-yeshivish masechtos and the halachic rishon instead of the yeshivish masechtos and the “lomdishe” rishonim/acharonim.

        3) Where do you see that?

      • dr. bill says:

        Both Rav Akiva Eiger ztl and Rav Yaacov Kaminetsky read/used the Biur.  I assume they were not unique.  A Ph.D. on the Netziv found references in his writings (as well of a number of his contemporaries) to rather non-traditional sources.  These swings between use and distrust of non-traditional sources being dominant among Gedolim have occurred many times in the past.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Use or familiarity with the Biur neither minimized nor maximizes any contributions of either the Netziv or R Yaakov ZTL. Like RYBS who utilized secular philosophy but did not “kasher” it, their use of the Biur neither “kashered’ the Biur , its author or his descendants/

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    RYBS noted that the greatest sefarim and most lomdus was not only in Nezikin, but also in the sefarim authored on BK,BM, etc. The goal of any Ben Torah should be to know the ins and outs of TSBP, as well as have an understanding of Halacha LMaaseh that is not always rooted in sugyos in the supposedly more relevant Masectos of Seder Moed. I think that one of the best ways for anyone to really appreciate the sweep and profundity of Chazal is a a supplementary seder in Daf Yomi or the equivalent, together with a chavrusa in Halacha.

    I agree with R Gordimer and reject Mr. Paley’s perspective for this reason-The SA HaRav in Hilcos Talmud Torah defines what every male Jew is obligated to learn, and can learn if he budgets his time properly-Why should MO and its next generation be satisfied with a dumbing down of such a wonderful MitzvaH

    • mycroft says:

      RYBS also did not believe in teaching those mesechtos to HS students. He would state the appropriate time is to learn it when they reach my shiur.

      It is not  dumbing down to make a priority to first learn mesechtas that are relevant halacha lemaaseh. Agreed they are not all found in Seder Moed-thus would agree that certainly , Shabbas,Berachos, parts of Chullin dealing with Taaruvos and AZ for starters should be learned in the beginning. I agree that eventually one should attempt to learn all of Shas as part of ones  limmud hatorah. Halacha lemaaseh is crucial either MB-or my personal preference of Chayei Adam/Chachmat Adam or Aruch Hashulchan. The goal should always be the knowledge of ins and outs  of both TSBP and TShebechtav, thus for those fluent in Hebrew 929 is a good recommendation.

      However, I disagree with Rabbi Grodimer and maybe Steve Brizel in that IMO the first priority should first be to learn mesechtas that are halacha lemaaseh with including a bid doseage of halacha lemaaseh that a baal bas must know.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        There is plenty of Lomdus in “Shabbas,Berachos, parts of Chullin dealing with Taaruvos and AZ” as well as in many masectos in Moed as well. However, the fact is that RYBS said that the greatest sefarim and most lomdus was not only in Nezikin, but also in the sefarim authored on BK,BM, etc.

    • Yair Daar says:

      Why is it that you assume that the בעל התני is the only legitimate opinion as to the nature of the מצוה of תלמוד תורה?

      This is really my major problem with Rav Gordimer’s approach in this article. Limiting the purpose, nature, scope, and value of תלמוד תורה to one “authentic” approach is completely wrong. This is really the compelling part of Netanel Paley’s article – “YP can’t afford to be Lakewood” just means that it can’t afford to be monolithic, not that it must completely reject the Litvish Yeshiva approach.

       

  11. Ori Pomerantz says:

    “The Torah luminaries who have taught us that these and other innovations contravene Mesorah (and/or Halacha in a technical sense) were able to define Mesorah and halachic nuance based on their deep grasp of Torah and their acute perception of the undercurrents and attitudes of the halachic system, as a result of being steeped in such for years on end. This deep immersion in analytical and abstract halachic thinking is the only way to become a master who has the gravitas to speak with authority to issues of Mesorah. (Please also see here. And please see here for elaboration on the concept of Mesorah.) Primary focus on practical Halacha, even with rigor and at advanced levels, will not precipitate this result.”

    I think you are comparing apples and etrogs. Those Torah luminaries are the very best that Orthodox Judaism has, and they get to that position after decades of training, theoretical and practical. That a certain training method works for an elite after decades of preparation does not mean it works for the rank and file who can only afford to devote a few years to full time study. To take a secular analogy, the training that produces good brain surgeons is very different, even in its first few years, from the training that produces the EMTs that save you in the ambulance.

  12. dov says:

    Having Emmunas Chachomim is a beautiful thing. Sadly, much of the non yeshiva world has little connection to this concept. I think a large , if not overwhelming portion of YP students trust in many of the respected YU roshie yeshiva/Rebbiem. In the outside yeshiva world the what to learn and how to develop talmidim questions is rightfully left in the hands of the Hanhalah of a given yeshiva. If one does not trust in his rebbiem then he shouldn’t be in that yeshiva.  B’h i had Rebbiem i trusted, I didnt agree with everything they said , but since i trusted them I adapted . To be a talmud you need to question , but you need to realize you are not always right.

    The refrain of the only person who understood the Rav was RAL (and the connected statement that “no one else is an accurate arbiter  of the Rav’s mesorah”) is a bit tired , and the people who experience some of the more “Right Wing” Talmidim of the Rav realize that this refrain is simply false. Additionally just as the Rav felt for his day and age certain needs of the community had to be addressed , his talmidim are afforded the right to scan the landscape the the jewish people and see what is working and what is not. It requires one to say to himself , “what would my Rebbe say?”. This all falls under the guidelines of being a talmid of a rebbe.

    • dr. bill says:

      As I have said previously, the Rav ztl said things to people based on how he assessed them and the situation they presented.  They then, as might be natural, generalize to an unconditional psak.  Unfortunately, many misrepresent the Rav entirely, recasting him in their image.  I am much less bothered by Rabbis who acknowledge their differences than by those who claim to be authentic heirs.  I applaud those who despite being talmidim do not presume to be able to deal with a particular issue as might.
      In terms of those claiming RAL ztl, was the only one who understood him, that is utter non-sense.  Clearly his children and Prof. Twersky ztl share a unique understanding as do a number of his students.  However, students who had/have even remotely similar breadth are far between.  I know of only a few, one standing out since he was explicitly recognized by RAL.  Others have only a more limited perspective, some in what mattered most to the Rav as a RY, where his shiurim contained only very, very isolated secular concepts, others in philosophy and hashkafah, mostly in his writings, early lectures and private conversations.  In three years in shiur, many years at Moriah and hearing at least 15 yartzeit/teshuvah shiurim, I remember exactly three references that I would guess someone without mathematics/philosophy training would not (fully) comprehend.  I assume that secular concepts in countless many areas foreign to me flew by without even any recognition.
      I remember once a controversial Jewish historian came into the Rav’s classroom during shiur.  The Rav casually nodded acknowledgement and proceeded to say a number of odd things clearly the result of the guest’s presence.  By chance I had read two of the guest’s books, and a dust cover had his picture.  At one point, I almost broke out laughing.   I assure you that a number of current RY present had no clue either who the individual was or exactly what motivated the (funny) language the Rav used when formulating questions.
       
      As Rav Rakeffet observed, within the next decades, authoritative biographies may emerge.  Sadly, I know that although I experienced the presence of a unique Gadol, I will never really understand him except at a rather rudimentary level.  On something as straightforward as the revolutionary change in curriculum for semicha the Rav proposed 50 years ago (pointed to by joel rich below), I have little confidence he would not have adjusted it many times were he still alive.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Thinking about what RYBS would have done today is as logical as saying that if my grandmother had wings, she could and would fly. The written record and what we know about RYBS from his talmidim muvhakim are what are the relevant factors, not portraying RYBS as a Maskil who happened also to be a Brisker einekel who was a great Talmid Chacham as well.

      • dr. bill says:

        I have no idea how what I wrote relates to your latest non-sequitur.    I hate to break it to you, but I do not know anyone who thinks the Rav ztl was a maskil, despite what he jokingly told Rav Amital ztl.  Despite that he had (broad) familiarity with what you might consider maskilishe material; you can verify that with those in a position to know.   I also don’t know anyone of any substance who would quote what the Rav said in case A and apply it without careful evaluation of the potentially changed circumstances to a broadly similar case B.  And if you think that contemplating how the Rav might have handled a situation is the job of only (those who you consider) his talmidim muvhakim, I suggest you ask them.  Jewish tradition requires that one should always be guided by how those from whom he learned might have dealt with a situation.  If that means your grandmother might be flying, encourage her to stay below 1000 feet and away from airports.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Unfortunately, since grandmothers don’t fly, I stand by my comments. Dreaming about or discussing how RYBS would have viewed today’s Torah world is a great example of Bitul Zman.

      • dr. bill says:

        Steve Brizel, I cannot believe how far off the derech your comments have gone.  Your comments reinforce the wisdom of chazal in pirkei avot – Lo matzasi laguf tov ….    You write “…discussing how RYBS would have viewed today’s Torah world is a great example of Bitul Zman.”  I talked about how one is required to consider how their rebbe might view a particular situation.  If that is bitul Torah, I think you should ask your rabbeim for guidance (and a refund, perhaps.).
        And BTW, I have not (yet) been zoche for the Rav ztl to visit me in a dream.
         

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Dr Bill-your posts bemoan today’s Orthodox world and wonder how RYBS would have viewed such developments. Take a look at R Rakkafet’s The Rav Vol.2, P. 238 for how RYBS understood who his latter day talmidim considered their heroes.

    • mycroft says:

      “The refrain of the only person who understood the Rav was RAL (and the connected statement that “no one else is an accurate arbiter  of the Rav’s mesorah”) is a bit tired , and the people who experience some of the more “Right Wing” Talmidim of the Rav realize that this refrain is simply false. Additionally just as the Rav felt for his day and age certain needs of the community had to be addressed , his talmidim are afforded the right to scan the landscape the the jewish people and see what is working and what is not. It requires one to say to himself , “what would my Rebbe say?”. This all falls under the guidelines of being a talmid of a rebbe”

      Learn what the Rav did lemaaseh, Maimonides school, he had a big track record as Chairman of the Halacha Commission of the RCA, he wrote a lot read it.  Look what the Rav did openly eg giving a lecture in Catholic Seminary in Brighton. Ma-became BTW the essence of Lonely Man of Faith. Be honest in what the Rav approved of-don’t make up special circumstances of what he did that are not germane. If you don’t want to follow your Rebbe fine but don’t pretend that you represent the true Rav  by quoting supposed private statements which are inconsistent with the public record. Be very wary of anyone maintaining that the Rav told him something that there is no record of him saying to others. Be careful of relying of side comments in shiur especially -it may have “been a chakira that he gave in shiur that he didn’t follow lemaaseh” Bisker were well known for that. The above of course applies at least as much to Left Wing distorters of the Rav as his”Right Wing” talmidim.

      Of course, if his “Right Wing” talmidim  are permitted the right to say what is working and what is not and say what “would my Rebbe say” then his other talmidim have the same right. BTW determining what works and is effective is not in the expertise of a  RY but in experts of sociology, education, psychology etc. To  quote the Rav who stated he “had no specialexpertise in non halachik matters” IMO applies to all halachik experts.

      • dr. bill says:

        One minor point.  Even in non-halakhic areas where the Rav ZTL had experience, in the cases few cases I am aware of, he would demand to hear what “experts” say.  Once he heard “expert” opinions he trusted his analytic skills and provided his view almost always as non-binding advice.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft-you have made this observation repeatedly -that doesn’t mean it is necessarily either right or wrong. It is easy to distinguish between RYBS’s role in Boston , his philosophical writings and lectures in a variety of arenas and his shiurim and drashos as to their content but that IMO misses the mark-they were all focused on one goal-raising the banner of Torah and showing that the study and observance of Torah deserved as much respect as any other scientific discipline, and a clear dislike for meaningless ceremony, even and especially if the underlying cause might have merit. I think that any evaluation of RYBS necessarily includes anything that he wrote and said, the shiurim and drashos which are available on the web and elsewhere, and anything that has been published posthumously that noone disagrees that the same is the Torah of RYBS such as the Machzorim, and the seforim written to date. This is the way that the corpus of any Gadol BaTorah has and should be evaluated-by the contributions of that Gadol and the teachings of that Gadol as transmitted by his Talmidim Muvhakim. Like it or not, some of the best “Torah of RYBS” has been presented by persons who never stepped foot inside RYBS’s shiur .

      • mycroft says:

        Where do I disagree-except for being very careful in any statement by ANYBODY that claims the Rav did/said something inconsistent with his public record of what he  said or did.

         

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft-define “public record”.

        I think that RAL’s article “Why Learn Gemara?” is a must read for anyone who wishes to engage in this discussion

    • mycroft says:

      Remember R N Lamms  comment on ” Emmunas Chachomim ” It is Emmunas Chachamim not Emunah Bchachomim.

  13. Nathan Glick says:

    If you have two years to study serious Torah, the I would recommend acheiving the skills needed to learn a sugya from begnning to end, of how to be “mepalpel” in its meaning with Rashi and Tosafot, ( so that things make sense in your own mind) and see how the sugya gets decided by Tur, Bet Yosef, Shulhan Aruch and Nosei Keilim. You should spend considerable learning Agadeta in depth with both philosophical and kabbalistical commentaries. When you learn midrashei aggadah on TaNaCH use that as an opportunity to study the Torah Shebichtav being commented on with at least Rashi. Not just the specific passuk but the whole inyyan. Once you can learn and comprehend these things on your own…then grasshopper, time for you to leave. Personally, one of my tests  for readyness would be “Explain me a Maharsha” It doesn’t matter that much which gemara you study. All gemarot are exceedingly deep, each in their own way. Getting a feel for all kinds of sugyot should be a priority.

    Understanding Hazal’s hashkafa as expressed the Agadeta according to the two  great schools of thought (Rambam-Philosophy/ Maharal and etc-Kabbalah) is  totally essential for being a believing Jew in today’s world. Learning Maharsha is an essential way of testing whether you actually grasp the structure and intent of a sugya. Above all, you need to know how to learn in order to go out into the world. After that you need to be one hundred percent committed to growing in learning no matter where life takes you, or how little time for it you have in your life.

    There is always down time somewhere. Use it! And never allow yourself to despair of being a great talmid hacham because you can’t sit in the bet midrash anymore. Your greatest illuminations and attainments are yet to come. Hashem especially loves people who work for a living, because they are mitasek be-priyya u-reviyya by having families and taking good care of them. That mitzvah, by the way, trumps quantitative Torah learning, because there is no greater interference with Torah learning that having a wife and raising a family, and Hashem is yet quite displeased with people who refuse to get married. But the quality of your learning, as you grow throughout your life, increases dramatically, in the merit of your wife and children.  You will find yourself accomplishing things in half an hour that would have taken you a week in yeshiva when you were younger. You will experience spontainious hiddushei Torah as you push the shopping cart, or wait at the doctors office (try not to have them while driving.) At every stage in your life, strive for greatness and do not ever stop believing in yourself!

    • Steve Brizel says:

      How about explain me any Ramban, Seforno, Netziv, Meshech Chachmah,  Ibn Ezra in any Parsha?

      • mycroft says:

        For a viewpoint on Gematria as to problems using it see Ibn Ezra on Gen  Chap14  Verse 14 on why we don’t listen to gematria.

      • Nathan Glick says:

        I don’t know where you stand of the matter of fluidity in the mesorah, but interestingly, gematria is a full fledged “middah” of agaddic derush, and a true believer in Hazal will want to at least attempt to wrap his/her mind around it. I have a mesorah from my Rebbe that gematria is a way of seeing and creating kavvanah, not (primarily) a way of dis-covering of proving. I personally think that the famous gematria of Avraham taking just Eliezer into battle based on the gematria of his name, is quite close to peshat, since it is quite a clever pun, and I can see instances in which the Torah does actually pun. Most prominant example “Umeeeh kol hatzon!” by Shaul and Shmuel.

      • Nathan Glick says:

        I said that personally, I think “teach me a Maharsha” is a great test for skill in understanding a sugya. But you are free to pick your own test. In any event, I stand behind the claim that nothing else has quite the same effect in getting you to understand a sugya “inside out, backwards and forwards” like Maharsha. In Tanach, explain me a Ramban is not so much of a test, unless you are referring to the “sod” parts. Explain me a Ibn Ezra…very very hard and obscure. I think it takes many many years, well beyong yeshiva age, to crack that. Now, explain me a Rashi…in the sense of how it works out rashi’s version of peshat, I think that could be a servicable test.  Blessings to all!

         

  14. Meir Bulman says:

    “There is an even more fundamental point that must be made – something so essential to what learning Torah is all about.
    Torah learning in a normative sense must be lishmah– for the sake of the mitzvah to study the D’var Hashem, the Word of God… learning lishmah is what the yeshiva experience is all about. This is why the traditional “yeshiva machzor”, the rotation of masechtos (Talmud tractates), includes heavy focus on those areas of Halacha which are not currently practical”

    I have heard this argument before and it seems that it developed in Yeshivos primarily to counter a notion prevalent in 1950’s and 60’s American Orthodox laity that Torah is only worthwhile to the extent that it is practical or provides a livelihood as a “career” pulpit rabbi. I think it has been taken to an unintended extreme. Can you provide a Torah source for the notion that learning either to know or pasken practical Halacha is a lack of לשמה?
    The mishna in Avos 6:6 lists הלומד על מנת ללמד והלומד על מנת לעשות as two of the קניני תורה, it’s hard to imagine that this is somehow not “Torah Learning in the normative sense”. In the Pre-war Hungarian, Slovakian yeshivos and I believe in the Polish yeshivos / “shteiblach” as well there was a focus on learning the sugyos with Rosh, Tur, following through to Shulchan Aruch and Nosei Keilim. Was this somehow a lack of “Lishmah”?
    See the striking wording of the Mishna Brura סימן תמ”ד ס”ק ל”א where he says that fulfilling even a mitzvah d’rabannan is greater than learning itself, if the two are mutually exclusive.

    • dr. bill says:

      Meir Bulman, Are you perchance Aaron Bulman’s AH son. I am a close friend.  I think you largely correct, certainly from a halakhic perspective. However as R. Slifkin notes below, a more modern aspect of Torah learning is its strong religious component and can be traced back (well before 1950) to R. Chaim Volozhiner ztl.  Sometimes religious endeavors invoke greater adherence than things that are strictly halakhic.

  15. Mr. Cohen says:

     
    Rabbi Allon Yisroel Bruckenstein said:
     
    In a typical classroom, approximately 20% of the students actually understand the Gemara and another 20% are completely lost.  The remaining 60% know how to “play the game,” which means that they know how to repeat what they heard, get the right answers, and memorize materiel without really understanding a thing.  I have spoken to many educators and they support my premise.  Some in fact claimed that my figures are too generous.
     
    SOURCE: Lost in Gemara, an article by Rabbi Allon Yisroel Bruckenstein, found in: Tachlis Magazine 2015/12/18, page 14
     
    MICROBIOGRAPHY: Rabbi Allon Yisroel Bruckenstein is an Educational Psychiatrist based in Jerusalem. He serves as a consultant for parents and teachers, and does educational and psychological testing for children.

  16. Nachum says:

    This whole discussion is kind of odd considering that YU regularly studies “non-yeshivish” masechtot (Brachot and Moed for example) and requires all its students to take Bible, Hebrew, and Jewish history courses. It also offers Jewish philosophy and halakha courses that are required in different divisons.

  17. joe socher says:

    Learning “lishma” does not mean only learning that which is impractical or non-applicable.

    Nor does “l’maase” mean only learning on a superficial level.

    Nor does learning Moed or Chullin mean that a person is not learning “lishma.”

    Learning a sugya, understanding how the rishonim understood the maskana and how that logic flowed through the tur – beit yosef – etc. is just as much “lishma” as learning the theoretical underpinning of a machloket between Rambam and Raavad through the lens of R. Chaim.

    The question is – given the limited amount of time that undergraduates have to learn talmud, what should their focus be on?

    Given that there are something like 20+ undergraduate shiurim in YU, I’m sure there is room for all types of shiurim.

  18. Steve Brizel says:

    It cannot be emphasized enough that in order to grow as a Ben Torah, that mastery of the ins and outs of TSBP, especially in the Sedarim of Nashim and Nezikin as well as the Masectos that RIETS learns in contrast to many other yeshivos, together with Halacha LMaaseh is one of the key tools to such growth. It requires Ameilus , working at it with intensity, and seeing whether you are even close to what your rebbe says on the inyan at hand. There are no short cuts, and focusing on the so-called “relevant” masectos at the expense of the so-called “irrrelevant” masectos was rejected by RAL in a letter to RY Greenberg that I think was published in the YU Judaica book.

    What was more problematic was the suggestion that MO Jews should eschew any hope of achieving the madregah of a Masmid or Lamdan, let alone a Ben Torah or Talmid Chacham. That POV should be rejected as having the potential of creating another generation of people who neither understand nor respect why Talmud Torah is such a key mitzvah. I am working on an article for Torahweb as a supplement to a Ben Torah’s Guide To Parnassah which will describe how even someone who is not a top earner can and should be Kovea Itim LaTorah, which I think will and should add more to this critical discussion, which IMo, when stripped to its essentials, is yet another excuse for not wanting to or having the willpower to learn Torah.

    • Yair Daar says:

      a) What is your definition of “Ben Torah?”

      b) Why is being a Masmid or Lamdan more important than anything else?

      c) How are you so sure that you are right?

       

      • Steve Brizel says:

        a Ben Torah is someone who views his primary goal in life as not being a Shomer Torah UMitzvos, but one who views his primary goal in life as Limud HaTorah-regardless of whether the content has “practical relevance.” Being a Masmid or Lamdan demonstrates that one learns not because one is obligated to do so or is doing for college credit, but rather it is a primary means of demonstrating Ahavas HaShem.  Take a look at the introduction of the Avnei Nezer to Iglei Tal as to why Talmud Torah is supposed to make one happy and Drush 18 of the Beis HaLevi , the Meshech Chachmah at the beginning of Parshas Vayakhel  as well as the Netziv throughout his commentary on Chumash on why we are a nation whose covenantal relationship is rooted in TSBP. Only someone who is at least a Masmid or Lamdan can understand the depth of that covenant. Then see Halachic Man and Emunah uBitachon by the CI wherein both RYBS and CI both state that the Jewish view on any issue begins with the Halacha.

      • Yair Daar says:

        “A Ben Torah is someone who views his primary goal in life as not being a Shomer Torah UMitzvos, but one who views his primary goal in life as Limud HaTorah-regardless of whether the content has “practical relevance.” 

        Right, and not everyone views Limmud haTorah as the ultimate goal of every Jew or the primary way of demonstrating Avodas Hashem. It’s that simple. Granted your assumption, R’ Gordimer’s article is completely correct, but the force behind Netanel’s point comes from the fact that this is far from the absolute truth. And I would have to agree that YU should be giving more credence to that possibility while still providing the opportunity for those who want to become completely steeped in Talmud Torah to do so.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        “Right, and not everyone views Limmud haTorah as the ultimate goal of every Jew or the primary way of demonstrating Avodas Hashem” 

        Show me where in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim  such an attitude can be justified.

      • mycroft says:

        ““Right, and not everyone views Limmud haTorah as the ultimate goal of every Jew or the primary way of demonstrating Avodas Hashem”

        Show me where in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim  such an attitude can be justified”

        I don’t want to argue the position but it is my impression that SRH treats  vlimadtem otam et beneichem etc as primarily the obligation to bring Torah into your house and life. Obviously one has to learn to do that but a different emphasis and maybe a fine point.

      • Yair Daar says:

        “Show me where in Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim  such an attitude can be justified.”

        That’s not really a fair way to argue. I’m not going to start with researching and quoting sources for you just because you decided to put the burden on me. I have done enough learning and heard enough “Authentic Torah Perspective” shiurim to know that Limmud Torah as #1 priority in Judaism is not a cut-and-dry issue by any means. Lo hamidrash haikkar ela hama’aseh comes to mind as does Rambam saying that תלמוד תורה is important specifically because it leads to מעשה. As does the opinion that you can fulfill תלמוד תורה with Shema in the morning and at night. Also, the תורה itself says almost nothing about learning Torah and a lot about מצוות, צדק & משפט.

        For many nuanced sources on all aspects of Talmud Torah I’d suggest this book:
        http://www.feldheim.com/torah-study.html

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Why isn’t arguing based on the elements of TSBP, as opposed to sociology, considered a “fair way to argue”? The idea that one an fullfil Torah study via Shema is a minimalist idea that is debated and rejected. Why not see from Rambam’s own words how much time he spent learning?

      • Yair Daar says:

        I’m not really interested in debating specific sources. Most sources can be interpreted one way or another (or discarded as you did with Rambam’s approach). If you have no appreciation for the possibility that תלמוד תורה isn’t necessarily the primary way of service for all Jews, I would recommend broadening your horizons a little.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        It is indeed a tragedy that despite all of the English language Judaica and shiurim in English that more Jews don’t viewתלמוד תורה as a primary primary way of service for all Jews, 

      • mycroft says:

        I hope I agree with both Steve and Yair.

        Yair ” If you have no appreciation for the possibility that תלמוד תורה isn’t necessarily the primary way of service for all Jews, I would recommend broadening your horizons a little.”

        Steve “It is indeed a tragedy that despite all of the English language Judaica and shiurim in English that more Jews don’t viewתלמוד תורה as a primary primary way of service for all Jews,”

         

  19. Yisrael Asper says:

    Natan Slifkin said:

    “The notion that Torah lishmah means study purely for the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is not a tradition from Sinai or from Chazal or even from the Rishonim. It is the innovation of R. Chaim of Volozhin, as R. Norman Lamm demonstrates at great length in his book on that topic. If you look at the Rishonim, they define the goal of learning Torah as knowing how to do the mitzvos. “Lishmah” does not mean “for its own sake” – it means for the right motives. Torah lishmah is the opposite of Torah shelo lishmah. Shelo lishmah is learning it for honor or other nefarious motives. Lishmah means learning it for the correct motives.”

    A description and analysis of Rabbi Norman Lamm’s view of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin and a contrary view to Rabbi Norman Lamm’s view.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/837491/rabbi-jonathan-ziring/torah-lishma-in-the-nefesh-hachaim/

  20. Shades of Gray says:

    How about a combination of both approaches? One can mainly learn the cycle of the traditional Yeshiva mesechtos, but also have a taste of going through a sugya in Moed with the Shulchan Aruch for the sake of variety, as well as the opposite, for those in a halacha track.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Take a look at the Dirshu program-I think that the concept is wonderful-Daf Yomi and Halacha LMaaseh rooted in the MB, as well as the CI and Gdolim following the CI.  The superb Dirshu edition of the MB, which is a MB Mnukad surrounded by pages and pages of comments of Gdolim such as the CI( who defined the MB as the Posek Acharon despite his own many Psakim that differed with the MB), RSZA, the Steipler and Yivadleinu LChaim R Chaim Kanievsky,  is a superb sefer and a great tool for looking into any siman in SA OC in depth

  21. mycroft says:

    I often wonder does anything really change-I was reading my copy of Sivan 5724 Gesher-(published by the Student Organization of Yeshiva) and reread an article “On Teaching Talmud in the Day Schools” and the spirit of some of the same ideas expressed by Mr. Paley are expressed in that article.  BTW in the same issue Rabbi Aaron Rothkoff -later added Rakeffet- starts one article with “How little we really knew about the average American Jew during our student days in the Yeshiva…”

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    “Community Covenant and Commitment” is a wonderful collection of letters and essays of RYBS. I saw nothing in there that even remotely can be used for advocating a minimalist approach to the study of Talmud. How many posters here have learned Ramban on Chumash which both RYBS ( and the Chasam Sofer) viewed of critical importance

  23. Mike S. says:

    Chassidishe yeshivos have a tradition of learning practical Messichtos for an understanding of halacha l’ma’aseh.  This was also the Sephardic tradition before Rav Schach undermined it.  The current rotation and emphasis on conceptualization and abstraction is about 150 years old.  And it was opposed by many Gedolim of that era as a radical departure from the Mesorah.  Ironically, RidBaZ, the founder of the Slutz Yeshivah (that eventually became Lakewood) was among them.

     

    Furthermore, the notion that one can become a master of Torah She Ba’al Peh while skimming or even skipping over the aggadita that forms such a large part of it is totally ludicrous.  Especially if the purpose is to “study in order to come closer to the Divine by experiencing immersion in the waters of Torah”.  Sure that is better accomplished by focusing on the aggada that Chazal use to teach proper Torah Hashkafa that skipping it in favor of abstract analysis of halacha in a way largely unknown to  Chazal and to the Rishonim.

     

  24. dr. bill says:

    Away for shabbos, I heard a local rabbi give a halakhic discourse and a long held belief of mine became obvious.  An issues with the yeshivishe approach to gemara is the disdain for the burgeoning world of knowledge about realia that could help explicate the practical intricacies of a sugyah.  Particularly in areas of halakhic disagreement, such knowledge could be (very) useful as for example in areas of bishul or borer.  In yeshivishe mesechtot, the relevance is equally true; knowledge of Roman or Sassanian law has been shown to be useful

    Before being attacked for the above, I ONCE heard the Rav ztl make a related point wrt a very practical sheailah, but his huge grin made me wonder what he was implying.  In any event, when personally challenged about doing something most consider disallowed on Shabbat, I always give his very traditional explanation for his psak.

    • Sass says:

      “I ONCE heard the Rav ztl make a related point wrt a very practical sheailah, but his huge grin made me wonder what he was implying.”

       

      What was this about and what did he say?

      • dr. bill says:

        making tea on shabbos – the rav ztl said “tea is tavlin.”  See the story in RHS’s first sefer on the Rav.  I (and others present) remember a longer discussion and cannot definitively remember which grandfather the rav was talking about, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik or Rav Elya Feinstein, or whether he said grandfather or grandfathers, meaning both.  He definitely then launched into a scientific insight from his brother, with a huge grin.

  25. mycroft says:

    Steve Brizel
    January 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm
    Dr Bill-your posts bemoan today’s Orthodox world and wonder how RYBS would have viewed such developments. Take a look at R Rakkafet’s The Rav Vol.2, P. 238 for how RYBS understood who his latter day talmidim considered their heroes.”

    For a possible reason why see the same volume pages 65-67 where the Rav speaking in honor of Rabbi J Lookstein states the importance that he had among others of fighting for Orthodoxy and accomplishing much in furtherance of Orthodoxy. BTW  your quote and the Ravs speech that I quoted is a good answer to the other Cross Current post where the writer  had a tough time understanding how very good students of the Rav who the Rav felt were suited to become Rosh Yeshiva became  pulpit Rabbis instead.

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