Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School
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Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

June 24, 2018 06:52AM
Here's an analogy I've been toying with for a while. We are children who have just found out that we are adopted. Does that mean Dad is no longer Dad? If I learn that historically Dad is not our father, does that mean he is not Dad? I think we recognize that “Dad” has more than one meaning and that the biological definition is hardly the most important. We would be foolish to give up Dad for historical reasons – he is truly the only father we've ever known.

There are issues: When do you tell children that they are adopted? Perhaps it's not necessary. And perhaps there are children who reject adopted parents when they learn “the truth”. Or perhaps children can learn this fact at a very young age and if little fuss is made, there may be little consequence for their life with their parents (and why would you insist on putting parents in scare quotes?). Is life experienced differently when you know that you are adopted? Perhaps. Are you more liable to become alienated from adopted parents than biological parents? Perhaps. Are there problems when your parents never tell you that you are adopted but the neighborhood kids regularly do? Perhaps. Are there problems when your parents insist you are not adopted but you clearly know you are? Perhaps.

Is it so terrible for adopted children to acquaint themselves with their biological parents? I can imagine many different scenarios of what such a meeting could be like and what the ongoing relationship might be. I don't think adoptive parents need be too worried about such a meeting taking place – that is unless the relationship with the adopted parents is already somewhat fragile.

Alan Brill and Brian Klug's discussion of the pragmatic approach to the problem of historical studies can be found here (https://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/prof-brian-klug-on-revelation-and-torah-from-heaven/). I would summarize the approach as follows: Do not confuse Science, History, and Torah – they are very different activities. Science is about modeling the objective world and how we might manipulate it. History is about uncovering and interpreting the past. Torah is about how a certain people navigates its way into the future. I see people confusing these categories all the time. If you are trying to prove the fact and proper dating of Yetziat Mitzrayim, you are doing History, not Torah. If you are trying to prove the existence of a revelatory event in Sinai some 3000 plus years ago, you are doing History, not Torah. Our ancestors may not have made such clear distinctions, but our ancestors (like us) were primarily involved in an activity called Torah, not History.

Some claim (and I don't think I'm constructing a straw man here) that we keep the mitzvot because of an intellectual belief about History, specifically about a historical event at Sinai. I would be surprised if that was an accurate account of anybody's motivations. The most fundamental reason we really keep mitzvot is because Hashem held Sinai over our heads and threatened to kill us, which is to say Torah is imposed upon us under duress (through the mediation of mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, teachers, friends, etc.) At least that is the way we all start. Hopefully at some point in our lives we mature to the stage of kiymu v'kiblu and serve willingly with love. History, at any rate does not enter the picture. The level of our commitment in the end is connected to our education in Torah, not our education in History.

I would also add, as a teacher in a community school, that bad History (or bad Science) masquerading as Torah can drive students from Torah. I would assume that is true for some students in Orthodox schools as well.

Jewish schools should above all be concerned with teaching Torah and teachers of Torah should above all be concerned with delivering the voice of Sinai so that students wish to run up the mountain and find themselves trembling before the awesome sound. Is there a need for an introduction to academic Biblical studies in a Jewish school? Perhaps passing mention is sufficient. And maybe there is no necessity at all. I would imagine different schools have different needs. Certainly a school delivering Torah that is on fire has minimal reason to occupy itself with historical questions that may be interesting but not edifying. History can enrich our understanding of Torah and there is no reason to say History must be abolished from the classroom, but I think we can all agree that it must be in service of real, living Torah.

Aaron Marcus



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/24/2018 06:52AM by mlb.
Subject Author Posted

Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Sara Susswein Tesler June 17, 2018 07:43AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Shmuel Kaufmann June 18, 2018 07:01AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Shmuel Silberman June 19, 2018 05:17PM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Heshy Grossman June 21, 2018 05:49PM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Russell Jay Hendel June 21, 2018 06:40AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Aaron Marcus June 24, 2018 06:52AM

Re: Discussion topic: Teaching Biblical Scholarship in a Modern Orthodox High School

Sholom Eisenstat July 01, 2018 08:42AM

Lower Criticism

Russell Jay Hendel July 04, 2018 05:52AM



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