Teaching Children How To Think

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19 Responses

  1. Meir B says:

    The book is genius – equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Norman Rockwell and Bnei Brak.

  2. Bruce Adelstein says:

    You should publish, even if you did it on the web.

    I remember spending a shabbos evening at your house. Why your kids found out I was a lawyer, they immediately started asking technical legal questions about the difference between conditions precedent and conditions subsequent in American contract law. As I answered, they compared and contrasted it with Jewish law, asked more questions, offered hypotheticals, and explored the differences. At several points, I didn’t know the answer. You got a word or two in, but mostly just sharpened their questions. It was great.

    That sort of engaging and sustained questioning is critical, and many people lack the background or sophistication to do it without help. You could be that help.

  3. lacosta says:

    maybe ‘avira deretz yisrael machkim’ , and more people thee would be able to answer your questions,,,,

  4. nt says:

    A sefer that helped me think and learn better is דרך תבונות by the Ramchal. He teaches logic using examples of application in the gemara. There is a great English translation called The Ways of Reason from Diaspora Yeshiva, and you can get it at fine Jewish bookstores.

  5. Bob Miller says:

    I can see the ad campaign for an ancient credit card – Don’t leave Canaan without it!

    Anyway, do all Torah commentators agree that Avraham Avinu had no choice but to go down to Egypt?

  6. Weaver says:

    A Yiddishe Kop is a great book, but I wonder our constant focus on having a “yiddishe kop” cultivates a certain shallow, smart-alecky cleverness that comes at the expense of yashrus and true depth of thought. The joke is a case in point: where the story to be true, it would have been a big chillul Hashem, and a cause for reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes!
    That being said, I am often in awe of Jewish achievement. From a recent article:
    “Earl Browder and his wife, Raisa, had three children, three boys. The first, Felix, became chairman of the math department at Chicago. The second, Andrew, became chairman of the math department at Brown. The third, William, became chairman of the math department at Princeton. And there is more Browder talent where that came from . . . Felix entered MIT at 16. He had his bachelor’s degree in two years. By 20, he had his Ph.D. from Princeton . . . [soon,] Felix was working at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, though he was not the most distinguished researcher: That was Einstein.”
    They only had a Jewish mother, but still! (She did push them hard to achieve intellectually, so I suppose this opens up a nature vs. nurture debate . . . )
    The whole piece is fascinating.
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455631/family-history-strange-odyssey-browders

    • Raymond says:

      For me personally, this whole mindset terribly backfired. I had attended Rambam High School, where it was not only expected for everybody to attend college, but to attend Ivy League Universities such as Harvard. I myself had originally planned to go to my local city college the first two years of college as a way of easing into the whole college experience, but so much pressure was put on me by teachers and my fellow high school students to go straight to UCLA, that that is what I did, where I proceeded to go from being an honor student throughout high school, to crashing and burning at UCLA, where my grades were so sub-par that I had to drop out, and from which I have never fully recovered. Perhaps the moral of the story is that while a select few Jews can be Harvard graduates or, on a more religious level, great Torah scholars, for most of us, we can only have any success at all if we stick to more modest and realistic aspirations.

      • Bob Miller says:

        You write well, so consider doing that.

        • Raymond says:

          Thank you. It has been a long-time dream of mine to be a professional writer, yet I have no idea what I want to write (other than that I would write non-fiction, as I am not good at all at describing things that do not actually exist), nor how to go about making it in that world.

  7. YS says:

    I am reminded of an encounter I had a number of years ago when I met a former camp-mate who became a popular author of true stories. Being an author myself, we discussed our books and I explained that my first two books were focused on mussar. His response… he first wanted to write a mussar book and publishers told him it wouldn’t sell so he then considered writing stories with a mussar lesson and again they told him it wouldn’t sell. They reiterated that no one wants to hear mussar in any form. Finally, he just wrote stories and they sold exceptionally well. My books, on the other hand, did not sell much!

  8. Heshy Bulman says:

    Limud HaTorah and Shmiras HaMitzvos Is the only prescription for TRUE Jewish intelligence – “Ki Hee Chochmaschem U’Vinaschem B’Einei” Ha’Amim. There are myriad secular Jews who accomplish great things in all of the sciences and the arts – all too many are tragically superficial and self defeating in that which they advocate most strongly. I agree wholeheartedly with Gadi Pollak’s recommendation.

    • Bob Miller says:

      For these myriads, how much of the problem is their failure to learn and how much our failure to teach? Or their lifelong lack of exposure to true yiddishkeit in action?

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    I also worke thru the book in question and enjoyed solving the problems with our grandchildren.

  10. Rafael Quinoaface says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    A great sefer that provides these thinking kind of “riddles” is Mishmeres Chaim by R’ Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg zt”l. We had a seder going through it during Thursday night mishmar, and we loved it!

    • I remember the Thursday nights in the old days in which we would use Mishmeres Chaim to provide brain teasers during Mishmar. There is no shortage of seforim ancillary to the gemara that demand problem solving that tax the brain. (This was really Gadi Pollack’s point.) I would put Shev Shemateta close to the top of the list.

  11. dave says:

    Please write your parsha book. Families need to engage in the parsha. Many families only sit together for meals on Shabbos and this kind of give and take in Torah topics is a great way to stimulate conversation and when we’re lucky, even some passion.
    We often read from the “What If…” books from Rav Zilberstein. While some of my kids (now all 18 and up) take issue with some of the solutions, particularly ones that seem counter-intuitive, the noise level rises as they take sides on what the psak halacha is. Sometimes they groan when I take out the book, but that doesn’t prevent them from having an opinion.

  12. Allan katz says:

    There is another type of thinking missing today – the pro-active type , generating ideas , reading a passage from the Torah and expressing an idea , or generating an original thought

  13. Asher says:

    “A depiction of a frum family on an outing in their car is keyed to questions about the direction of flow of the river on their left (the hint is in a road sign on the other side of the car indicating a grade in the road), ”

    Sorry to point this out, but Gadi got that question wrong. On the GPS, the river clearly is shown as having come from three different tributaries. Tributaries only come together in the direction the water is flowing (that is, three tributaries join a river, but a river will not divide into three tributaries.) The reason for this is obvious: Water always runs down towards the ocean through the past of least resistance, thus many small tributaries will join a big one but not vice versa.
    Thus, the river has to be flowing the opposite direction of the car traveling, and not like Gadi’s answer.
    This shows the importance of not only training children to think, but to also teach thme science. Thinking without knowing facts gets you nowhere.

    • Alex says:

      Somebody better tell the folks who live in the deltas of the Mississippi or the Amazon or the Danube, then, that these don’t really exist…

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