Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Education

Posted on | December 6, 2005 | By Steve Brizel | 8 Comments

I’m glad that my comment generated some responses. Here are some comments:

1) It helps if you are a voracious reader. I have been since my childhood days. That being said, it pays to read the best of the Charedi and MO world’s publications. I like Jewish Action, Mishpacha and the Jewish Press. The Jewish Observer is better than it was but the JO/ & Yated are way too ideologically driven for my taste.

2) There is no reason why anyone has to learn any sefer that is not either from a ksav yad or punctuated or both.

3) Find a good shiur, chavrusa and learn something. Daf Yomi without a shiur is manageable if you follow the Magid Shiur and look up some of the mareh mkomos. OTOH, a weekly shiur in Gemara is also important if you find a daily chavrusa too challenging. A rebbe helps unlock the ins and outs and what is happening in the Gemara , Rishonim and Acharonim.

4) Learning Chumash IMO means having a working knowledge of the Rishonim such as Rashi, Ramban , Ibn Ezra, Seforno and Rashbam and their respective ways of looking at a passuk. I will always have hakaras hatov to the JSS derech of learning “it and not about it” which gave me textual skills.Navi, as opposed to Chumash, becomes more and more oblique as Jewish history leaves EY until the time of Ezra. It also lacks for a Ramban style commentary with a global focus.

5) There are excellent sefarim which one could call likutim in Lashon HaKodesh on almost every aspect of halacha . This style of writing was pioneered by R Neubert’s Shmiras Shabbos Khilchasa. MB is wonderful if you have a punctuated text with the CI or Shoneh Halachos to compare it. I would not learn ShuT unless the teshuvah relates to a specific inyan that you are covering.

6) Hashkafa is some eyes a “third rail issues.” Zionism, the Shoah, college education, Daas Torah are all issues that either can be discussed in the prism of Jewish history in a non-judgmental manner or are completely off limits. That is a fact of life especially with the number of book bannings that have cropped up in recent years. IOW, if you are Charedi , you probably haven’t read anything by RYBS and if you are MO, you may not have seen the writings of many Baalei Mussar and Chasidus. You might not know that the inclusion of Mussar caused as much of a revolution within the Lithuanian yeshiva world as the development of Chassidus or that many RY survived haskalah and worse within their own families. I find the fact that Gdolim, not just BTs, emerged from such a setting much more of an inspiration than any hagiography that the subject knew all of Shas as a child and was a tzaddik. In fact, R Hutner ZTL wrote that we should not assume that the Chafetz Chaim achieved his madregah on lashon hara without a struggle. From my POV, I want to gain as much as possible from every Baal Machshavah within the Mesorah. One can always tell the breadth of a person by just glancing at a bookcase and seeing whether there is a broad range of classical seforim on every topic or just a lot of “klei sheni:” in English and ArtScroll., et al.

Comments

8 Responses to “Education”

  1. Mordechai
    December 6th, 2005 @ 7:13 pm

    Everyone has different backgrounds, character traits, time commitments and other factors which necessitate different paths to Teshuvah. What worked for you is great, but it might not be the right or the accessible path for everyone. I think it’s important to recognize that.

    Denigration of Art Scroll and English seforim doesn’t seem helpful to me. For many people English seforim have given them a wealth of knowledge and insight about Torah, without which they might not be learning at all. I agree that it’s better to learn in the original, but sometimes we have to go with plan B.

  2. Daniel
    December 6th, 2005 @ 7:28 pm

    “Navi, as opposed to Chumash, becomes more and more oblique as Jewish history leaves EY until the time of Ezra.”
    What do you mean, oblique? Neviim spans more of the centuries of Israel than the Torah does. There are some sublime hours to be had outside (as well as in) the haftarot, and while you suggest you would have preferred the Ramban, there are Rashi and Radak.

  3. Zelig
    December 6th, 2005 @ 10:53 pm

    In Navi, the message becomes more obscure as you move away from Sinai into Galus. That’s ome major difference between Yeshayah and Yechezkel. According to many Talmide Chachamim, one can ask whether what is called Rashi on Navi is in fact Rashi on Chumash. Radak and Malbim are helpful but IMO don’t have the overall sweep of Ramban

  4. Zelig
    December 6th, 2005 @ 10:56 pm

    My comments re ArtScroll require some clarification. I love the ArtScroll Siddur and Machzor. The Mishnah and Shas are enormous accomplishments. ArtScroll’s hashkafic works are invariably Charedi. Its biographies of Gdolim provide little inspiration and zero background into how the subject became a Gadol. In addition, one sees way too much adherence to the Charedi line on many issues as well.

  5. Zelig
    December 6th, 2005 @ 11:07 pm

    One other comment. In Selichos, we always recite a series of Psukim from different Neviim . RYBS once commented that we do so to emphasize that each Navi outlined a different emphasis or means of achieving teshuvah. Obviously, we need more recognition of the fact that there is more than one path to do teshuvah. Yet, literacy in the sense of being able to work out a Passuk, mishnah, Sugya, Rishon or sefer such as the MB in the original should be an eventual goal. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I can’t imagine any yeshiva that would allow ArtScroll Gemaras in the Beis Medrash or a shiur room.

  6. Cosmic X
    December 7th, 2005 @ 2:37 am

    I just discovered this blog. As a BT I salute you all and wish you much success.

  7. Mordechai
    December 7th, 2005 @ 9:46 am

    Zelig – I’m surprised that you didn’t know that Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills allows Art Scroll Gemaras in the Beis Midrash. You’re not a proponent of book banning – are you? :-)

  8. Dovid
    December 7th, 2005 @ 10:07 am

    Zelig – I think that your approach would work well if we each had a solid four or more hours a day to devote to learning. For those becoming BTs later in life, it’s nearly impossible to find that amount of time. That doesn’t absolve us from making these skills a goal to constantly reach for but to make independent learning a barometer of integration is to write off the overwhelming majority of later in life BTs.

    At the same time, BT Yeshivahs need to put a greater emphasis on developing the ability to learn in text, unaided. This should be an attainable goal, if not a necessity, for younger BTs who are spending time in yeshivah.

    I think you mentioned yesterday that you’ve been learning steadily since back in the 60s or 70s. That is a tremendous thing but keep in mind that many BTs have not had that amount of time to learn and simply can’t find that time now.

    A problem arises, however, when BTs completely write off learning using the excuse that they don’t have enough time or that it doesn’t interest them.

    I’ll leave my english sefarim and Artscroll defenses in Mordechai’s capable hands.

  • RSS Shul Politics

  • Get Beyond BT Via Email

     Step 1: Enter your Email

  • Categories