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What Makes a Tanach Shiur Great?

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What makes a Tanach Shiur Great?

What makes a Tanach class great?
“The 10 suggestions”
Yitzchak Twersky
  1. Like any Torah class, the relationship we have with the students and the type of role models we are is by far the most important aspect.
  2. We need to always keep in mind that our central goal is to foster an appreciation of, and love for, the learning of Torah.
  3. Our topic is Tanach- not midrash or mefarshim. These are essential tools in working on the text, but they are a means- not an end. It is crucial that the students understand that they and we are partners in the process of analysis and discovery together with the commentaries- albeit decidedly junior partners.
  4. Needless to say, our extensive preparation and creative analysis is crucial. The more we have to give the students, the more exciting class is for us and for them.
  5. Students know when we are just citing commentaries and when we have thought the text and issues through ourselves. It makes all of the difference in how they feel about the class!
  6. Students need to be active participants in the process. In order to do this, we need to demand preparation from them (in/out of class). When they’ve prepared, they have the ability to participate and contribute. We need to encourage their questions and insights- we are all enriched by this input.
  7. The key is focusing on the “big picture”. What is the central message of the section, the perek and the sefer? How do the details fit in? How does this text relate to others in Tanach?
  8. Learning is exciting when the information (text, facts, mefarshim…) is part of a quest for understanding, rather than a process of trudging through material. When we do the next passuk or Rashi because “it’s there”, it is boring! When we do them in order to solve a problem, it is exciting! The same is true of methodology. If we show them a means for deciphering text which “only” results in a translation of the text, it is deadly dull. If it is part of the quest it can be fascinating!
  9. We want to help the students move forward in their ability to learn on their own.
  10. It is crucial that are goals are appropriate for the particular class that we are teaching. Is it realistic to think that this group will learn without translation when they are adults, or would we be very happy if they open a Chumash with a translation in the future? The answer varies with the class, and we need to adjust the way we do things to that reality.