Friday, July 22, 2005

Elementary Understanding

Y'know what always bothered me, the fact that before we were sitting down to first learn Navi or Gemara, it was never explained to us what these things were.

What was Navi? In elementary school my understanding of it was basically lesser Torah stories. Holy books, but less holy than Chumash. That's why on my desk I had to stack them that way.

What was Gemara? Rabbis making Halacha. But when was the Gemara written, who wrote it, what else was going in the world at that time - all that I was in the dark on.

Having no conception of where Navi or Talmud fit into the Jewish construct of things or the wider world's left me extremely uninterested until much later.

That's why I always liked science. Science simply was "the way the world works." It's place in the world was eminently obvious and so my interest in it was so much more pronounced.

15 comments:

Rachack said...

I don't beleive such a Yeshiva existed. Either you weren't interested in the information that was being served to you as a child and therefore did not understand these things, or you are lying.

Sarah said...

Oh man, I totally understand you, Daniel. The context of Navi was never explained to us, and until my brother sat with me and started to bring it to life for me, I had no interest at all.

As for Gemara, I didn't even really understand what it was until I went to Israel. I just knew it was some important book that guys learned which was pretty obscure, but all in all wasn't important enough to teach to me. Perhaps they tried to teach us where the Gemara fit in in terms of history and importance, but when I wasn't allowed to learn it, remembering that stuff didn't seem to have any relevance.

To this day, I don't understand if it's so important how they can completely ignore teaching it to half the Orthodox Jewish population ...

Orthoprax said...

Rachak,

Oh, here's a pickle. Do I respond to your reponse with a long answer to defend myself or do I brush you off with the amount of respect your response deserves?

Ok, I'll do the latter.

You're a dumbass.

Orthoprax said...

Sarah,

Thanks for the understanding and the vote of confidence for my integrity.

"To this day, I don't understand if it's so important how they can completely ignore teaching it to half the Orthodox Jewish population ..."

It's important to know, but not for women to know...

Zoe Strickman said...

I hope you don't mind me asking you this (I am also asking other blog authors whose blogs I read regularly), but would you be willing to put a link to my site on yours? My site is seriously lacking in Jewish readership and I could use the increased traffic (and more importantly, the feedback) on topics that I am writing about on the blog, and I don't know how to attract more Jewish readers. I'd appreciate any suggestions you have, and I've enjoyed reading your site since I came onto the blog world in March. Thanks. -Zoe

Orthoprax said...

Zoe Strickman,

Not that I mind you asking, but I'm not really in the habit of putting up pity links on my blog. I only have a short number of links and those are generally just the blogs I read regularly or those which I find have interesting things to offer.

But this is what I got off of your blog: "Here was my logic for becoming religious: If there is a G-d, then we have an obligation to him to follow his commandments. When we die, we'll know if we were right. If there is no G-d, and reality is limited to our experience in our lifetime only, when we die, consciousness will die with us and we won't know we were wrong. I'd rather err on the side of being religious."

You seem to be going in the opposite direction from how my blog looks at things. Though I can't pass by such a quote as this and not inform you of the intellectual bankruptcy that is Pascal's (or Zoe Strickman's) wager.

I suggest you look up some generic publication list, like jrants, and get your blog more attention that way.

Anonymous said...

you can only go so far with science.

Anonymous said...

there's science in the talmud. stuff that modern scientists have discovered. If you don't want to look fine. But don't bash if you don't know.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"you can only go so far with science."

Indeed. That's it's greatest strength. You can only go as far as the evidence can back you up. Anything else is speculation.

"there's science in the talmud."

No there isn't. There are folk tales and comments on the stuff in the universe which once in awhile actually end up being accurate but mostly is incredibly and spectacularly wrong.

"stuff that modern scientists have discovered. If you don't want to look fine. But don't bash if you don't know."

Ok, man, I've looked and found half-earth/half-flesh mice, lice that live through spontaneous generation, pillars that hold up the Earth, and that drinking donkey urine will cure jaundice.

What have you got?

Lvnsm27 said...

yes there is. you have to look. there are scientific facts in the talmud.

How can that be when man wasn't able to do accurate research thousands of years ago.

It's because the Torah wasn't created by man. It's from Hashem.

Orthoprax said...

lvsm27,

"yes there is. you have to look. there are scientific facts in the talmud."

No. There are not. Do you know what a "scientific fact" is? You get that special kind of fact when you do experiments, test the waters and come back with positive results.

Statements in the Talmud that happen to be correct are not scientific, they just happen to be right.

"How can that be when man wasn't able to do accurate research thousands of years ago."

Case in point. There can't.

"It's because the Torah wasn't created by man. It's from Hashem."

So it was God who wrote about the spontaneous generation of lice?

David said...

Y'know what always bothered me, the fact that before we were sitting down to first learn Navi or Gemara, it was never explained to us what these things were.

You're right but I think you might be expecting too much. When I first learned how to graph a polynomial, for example, I was expected to do it pretty mechanically. Memorize how to find slope, count the squares on the graph paper, etc. By the time I took calculus, though, I had a bit more of an abstract idea of how the graph represented the results of the polynomial.

I realize the analogy to math isn't exact but how would you explain prophesy to elementary school students in a meaningful way?

Orthoprax said...

David,

"I realize the analogy to math isn't exact but how would you explain prophesy to elementary school students in a meaningful way?"

a) Elementary students already are taught the concept of prophecy when they start learning Bible stories.
b) I'm not even talking about internal aspects of the text, but external ones that link the text in front of me to the rest of the world. What is Navi? Where do these books come from? Why were they written? Why should we study them today? Stuff like that.

Math, on the other hand, is something I've always viewed utilitarianly until fairly recently. Math was a tool to measure and understand other things. Now I also see it that way, but I can also enjoy the philosophical side of it as ideal abstractions of reality.

Mis-nagid said...

You have to pity people like Lvnsm27. So earnest, yet so misguided.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"I realize the analogy to math isn't exact but how would you explain prophesy to elementary school students in a meaningful way?"

That's for top educators to decide. But there is a veritable wealth of material on the subject of prophecy. Surely some of it can be chewed up and presented for children.