A Focus on Skill Building
Our curriculum is geared towards helping students acquire the skills necessary to interpret and analyze גמרא ,תנ”ך and commentaries independently. In order to become an independent learner of גמרא , students need to understand the nature of the text; what types of questions are asked, who is speaking when, when an earlier source is being marshaled, when an argument has practical consequences, and when it is a theoretical construct. תורה Sheb’al Peh (TSBP) classes constantly address the question of “what is the גמרא doing here and why?” A focus on terminology and structure of Talmudic debates helps students apply skills from one דף to the next. This also includes an emphasis, when possible, on the historical places and people behind the גמרא .When approaching a unit of ך“תנ ,students first study, discuss and generate questions on the פשט and then proceed to analyze the comments of traditional מפרשים .Students develop the habits of mind to appreciate the literary nature of an entire unit, as well as the ability to dissect a single פסוק .When studying פרשנות ,emphasis is placed on precision in reading and explaining; students are expected to understand the role of particular proof texts and to intuit implicit questions.
עברית .In order to strengthen the Hebrew communication skills of our students, Hebrew language is a focus in all of our Judaic Studies classes. Our advanced classes are taught entirely in Hebrew, while our grade level classes are taught in a combination of Hebrew and English. In order to accommodate students with difficulty understanding spoken Hebrew, there are sections of Tanakh and TSBP in each grade where English is the primarily language of instruction, with Hebrew phrases and vocabulary incorporated.
An Emphasis on Both עיון and בקיאות .In order to ensure that learners develop depth and breadth in ך“תנ and גמרא – as well as a habit of learning, the curriculum has both a בקיאות and an עיון component. The way to become an independent learner of גמרא is, simply, to see a lot of גמרא .For this reason, TSBP classes focus on covering ground in גמרא rather than focusing intensively on commentaries. Students who are able to learn גמרא at an accelerated pace spend significant time studying תוספות and other ראשונים . In addition, advanced classes participate in a בקיאות program in which they study additional material. The עיון component of ך“תנ involves in-class analysis of the central issues of a unit and in-depth study of פרשנות .Advanced Tanakh classes learn additional seforim as part of a bekiut program.
Probing Essential Questions that are Religiously Significant and Relevant to Students. The ך“תנand גמרא are the first, and most essential, books of Jewish thought. At all points in our study of ספרי קודש we ask, “What does the Torah tell us about how we should live our lives?” Each סוגיא is structured around an essential question, such as “What are the parameters of personal responsibility in public space?” These serve as both a point of entry and a driving structure for learning. We reflect on the important questions raised by the text; for example, when studying מסכת קידושין , students grapple with the עגונה issue and study a variety of modern solutions to the problem. Out of respect for the תורה‘ s lessons, we directly address difficult and contemporary issues that arise in study of חומש , such as the particular ethics of war prescribed in דברים ספר.