Sunday, January 21, 2007

What are we teaching our children?

One thing about traveling is that you get to speak and meet people that you'd never get to meet in your own communities. Interestingly, when I say I'm from Israel, it brings out the conversation in the people around me - the woman on the train who asked me if I had to wear a burkaon the streets in Israel, the man sitting next to me on the airplane who was returning from a protest march, the taxi driver, whoever. And I'm always learning new things. For instance, last week I experienced an interesting contrast between religious Jewish attitudes and religious Christian attitudes to Bible:

In El Paso, the driver of the hotel shuttle, a religious Catholic originally from Mexico, was very excited to meet someone from the 'Holy Land' and told me that he reads the Bible daily. He begins with the Old Testament, moves on to the New Testament and when he finishes begins the cycle again. He's been doing this all his life and can quote by heart much of the Bible. His respect for the Bible contrasted sharply with someone I met later that same week - a 13-year from a community day school on the west coas who explained to me that he had to complete his Humash-learning by 8th grade. "Because" he said "in high school (read: Yeshiva) I plan on studying only Gemara." He also explained to me that Gemara was all-important since "from Gemara we learn how God thinks!" (Torah, on the other hand was just his written words.) He had learnt this from his 7th grade Jewish Studies teacher (Rebbe) who gives them weekly 'lessons' on the importance of Gemara (and subsequently, the unimportance of Tanakh).


  1. First of all, it is highly likely that he didn't give over his rebbe's words with perfect accuracy. Aside from that, I would say that it is much better that he is looking forward to learning gemara than playing video games.

  2. I tried to keep the people anonymous so I gave less info than I actually have, but I know for a fact that he quoted his Rebbe verbatim. I tend to agree, it's nice that he looks forward to Gemara, but I think Torah's important too - don't you?