Thursday, May 19, 2011

Future Posts on Learning and Teaching

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to post future thoughts about learning and teaching on my Midrash, etc. blog. They fit nicely in the "etc." category. Here's one on The Shortest Way as the best way.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Midrash and Torah Technology

These photos show a fragment from the Dead Sea scrolls photographed with two very different processes. The photo on the left was taken with standard equipment. Many words and letters were obscured (and even thought to be lost) to the effects of age.

The photo on the right was taken with a process called multispectral imagining technology developed by NASA. It uses ultraviolet and infrared light to increase image resolution. Previously obscured or apparently invisible text appears. Now, every letter of every word on the fragment could be understood.  

My point is this: It is possible for a new technology to reveal what was always there, but obscured. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Turn It Over

This well-known saying of Ben Bag Bag says a lot about Torah on the one hand and the practice of learning on the other.
Ben Bag Bag says: Turn it over and turn it over, for everything is in it. Look deeply into it, and grow old with it, and spend time over it, and do not stir from it, because there is no greater portion. (Pirkei Avot 5:22)
The statements that "everything is in it" and "there is no greater portion" relate to the Torah. Torah is established at Sinai, confirmed in Yeshua, and worked out in tradition. Everything is in it. Especially understood in its Brit Hadashah renewal. 
The rest of Ben Bag Bag's saying is about close reading as a lifelong practice:
1. Turn it over
2. Turn it over again
3. Look deeply into it
4. Grow old with it
5. Spend (lots of) time with it
6. Do not stir from it
There's no room here for superficial or episodic study. Ben Bag Bag urges us to be all in for a lifetime. He envisions a loving, repetitious, lifelong engagement with the words of Torah which are deep enough, rich enough, to reward a life study. Old age may be a time of physical decline, but it also offers the potential to be an especially rewarding time, culminating a life of study.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

4 Repetitions

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous on this blog reminded me of the following passage from Bavli Eruvin 54b. Here's the whole passage, taken from Jacob Neusner's translation:
Our rabbis have taught on Tannaite authority: What is the order of Mishnah teaching? Moses learned it from the mouth of the All-Powerful. Aaron came in, and Moses repeated his chapter to him and Aaron went forth and sat at the left hand of Moses.
 His sons came in and Moses repeated their chapter to them, and his sons went forth. Eleazar sat at the right of Moses, and Itamar at the left of Aaron. R. Judah says, “At all times Aaron was at the right hand of Moses.”

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Learning with a Rabbi

My first hevruta (study partner) tried out four different yeshivot before finding the right one. In each case, the learning approach of the rosh yeshiva was the determinative factor. The learning approach that most suited my hevruta was a very deliberative and careful working through the gemara, not moving on until the material had been thoroughly grasped.

It was no accident that he and I learned together the same way. We didn't cover a lot of ground, but the ground we covered was really covered.

I wonder what would have happened to my hevruta if he had never found that rosh yeshiva? More relevant for us now, what about Messianic Jews who wish to learn seriously in a traditional setting or privately from a rabbi? How do MJs find a rabbi whose approach to learning is compatible with theirs?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Four Generations - Part 2

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Messiah Yeshua. And the things you have heard me say among many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Tim. 2:1-2).
I previously blogged about the trans-generational aspect of this verse. Now I want to look at it from another angle, one that’s equally important in passing it on through “four generations.”  

The translation I’m using here is a bit different from the one I used last time. In that post I used a translation of a certain phrase that isn’t exactly right. The idea that Shaul taught Timothy “in the presence of many witnesses,” which I used last time, sounds as if a bunch of people were standing by and watching the scene.  Now, does this make sense?