08 December 2008

"He Can't Study Torah if He's in the Torah!"

I am ready to admit it. I am raising children who question things their teachers tell them. Cool yiddishe maidel is in kitah alef now, so she brings home her parsha sheet for us to, ideally, discuss at the Shabbat table. What ends up happening, in reality, is she starts to tell me about some midrash involving the principal characters. I will inevitably ask her if this story came from the Torah, and she will say "yes". I open up the Chumash and start reading the parsha to her. When we get to the disputed part, she'll say, "Oh, I guess it's a midrash." 

[From a chinukh perspective, I feel it's important for a child to understand the difference between p'shat and d'rash from the beginning. Starting in kitah bet, she will study each of the parshiyot in Chumash. It'll be a significant disappointment for the students when they realize that some of those "fun" stories their kitah alef teachers told them are not even in the Torah, but were creative stretches done by the Rabbis. It's particularly problematic for the "drier" parshiyot in Vayikra and Bamidbar. A veteran kitah alef teacher I read about revealed the "disservice" she did with her students by teaching midrashim and since then, sticks to p'shat.]

This was particularly fun to do for Toldot (yes, I'm a week late posting it but oh, well!). CYM started to tell me about the part in the parsha when Yaakov left to study Torah with Shem and Eber and that was why G-d selected him for the brakhah. I asked, "How can Yaakov study the Torah if he's already in it?" She answered, "Oh, Morah xxxx never told us that." I continued, "So ask her about it." This past week, for Va'yetzei, I guessed she asked her morah the question. Apparently, her teacher said, "I don't know" and pushed on. (Am Kshe Oref's wife joked that a card is being prepared on my daughter and at some point, she'll get kicked out of school for asking the "wrong" questions. As AKO's wife also pointed out, the morah is not an "educated" da'ati/l'umi, but an Israeli who allegedly borders on being chillunit.) 


  1. One of the problems is that much of Rashi is Drush, but Rashi also wrote "Al Pi Ruach HaKodesh" (whatever that means). Parshablog often has parsha posts that deal with this. Shadal also has his very strong opinions on p'shat vs. drush. It's also important to know where the Gemara's are (a lot in Mesechtas Menchot) bought down and discussed. You should definitely teach your child to question in a respectful manner. Rememeber, many early childhood teachers are fresh young "Bais Yaakov" types who never questioned a thing in thier lives, and quote drush as fact (how tall was Og?). Just make sure that it is respectful. Cynicism taught at an early age could lead people off of the derech

  2. Cool Yiddishe Mama, I found your blog in December and have been waiting for another post! I hope you and your family are well.

    Chag kasher ve'sameach,


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