Should Tanach be Taught in Cheder?
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- This topic has 58 replies, 21 voices, and was last updated 4 months, 1 week ago by Always_Ask_Questions.
November 2, 2022 11:13 am at 11:13 am #2134123
Rav Sternbuch (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:457):
Question: Should Tanach be taught in Talmud Torah (cheder) before learning Gemora?
Answer: The accepted practice is not to teach Tanach – even though the halacha is that one should teach Tanach since it is included in the category of holy writings (mikra). The reason for avoiding teaching Tanach is it tends to give a less spiritual understanding – G‑d forbid – of G‑d’s relationship with us. In fact it is more difficult to learn Tanach then it is to learn a complex issue in the Gemora.
The Chasam Sofer (Toras Moshe Parshas Shemos) stated that when the Torah was translated into Greek then Jews began be aware of the plain meaning of the verses. As a consequence heresy developed and people were not interested in hearing the explanations of our Sages. This in fact is still a concern today. That is the reason that we keep our children from “higayon” – which as Rashi (Berachos 28a) explains means not to present them with Biblical texts unaccompanied with explanation and interpretations.
However one who has been educated in Talmud and halacha and has a solid foundation of the pure fear of G-d – he is definitely obligated to learn the entire Tanach. Rashi himself notes in his commentary to Torah that a talmid chachom needs to be expert in all 24 books of Tanach. However for young students our ancestors in recent times have not taught them Tanach and one should not change this tradition. In fact teaching the Biblical stories carries the real danger that they will view the activities of our forefathers as lowly and coarse behavior because they are missing context and principles for proper understanding of the text.
You also asked which commentaries should you use for self-study of Bible? I would recommend initially the commentaries of the Metzudos Dovid, Redak, Abarbanel and the Malbim. However the fact is that for most of Tanach we still don’t have a proper commentary on the elementary level which arouses the heart to fear G‑d – which is the main concern in our days.
The heretics that learn Bible their entire purpose is to show that the Biblical personalities also sinned in those days. In this manner they want to minimize the negative connotations of sin. The fact is that the true meaning of Tanach is like that of the true meaning of Torah – without the commentaries of our Sages we have little ability to understand them properly. Because of these difficulties in learning Tanach one will receive greater reward for not studying Tanach then he would in studying it. He should leave his son to learn in the accepted manner which means Torah, Mishna, Gemora and Rishonim and then afterwards he should study Tanach by himself with the proper commentaries and that will be the best for him.November 2, 2022 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm #2134734akupermaParticipant
1. Very few Chederim (elementary schools) teach any Tanach other than Humash and the first few historical books. These books have been “best sellers” among Yidden for the last few millennia. Siddur and Talmud are okay, but if you tried teaching them to little kids it would bore them to death. Much of the rest of Tanach (with a few exceptions, such as Megillas Esther and Yonah) would not go well with kids learning to read.
2. The goyim’s “Bible” is an adaptation based on several intermediate translations of dubious accuracy, and in many ways reflecting Hellenic culture. Yidden learn the original with Rashi, which gives an entirely different result. It is not surprising the goyim are easily confused (from out perspective, they are functional illiterates). A good way to shut them up is to make it clear you have never heard of “Genesis” or “Psalms” or “Moses” or “Isaac”, and after they explain remind them what the real names are (note that the number of goyim with even cheder-leval literacy in Hebrew is negligible).November 2, 2022 1:17 pm at 1:17 pm #2134756Reb EliezerParticipant
Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel and Malachim should be taught as I was but not the others.November 2, 2022 1:43 pm at 1:43 pm #2134768ubiquitinParticipant
Fantastic mareh makom
“However for young students our ancestors IN RECENT TIMES have not taught them Tanach and one should not change this tradition.” (emphasis added)
IT is always interesting to me when A gadol, says befeh maleh that changes in practice in gweneral, and chinuhc in particular occur.
Once upon a time kids learnt Tanach, after all “the halacha is that one should teach Tanach” however “in recent times” this is no longer doen.
Thanks for sharing!November 2, 2022 1:44 pm at 1:44 pm #2134767
100% Tanach should be taught. Not even a question.November 2, 2022 2:26 pm at 2:26 pm #2134773
yabia, to you it’s not a question because you’re not .000001% of the chasam sofer.
maybe learn not just answers but also learn from gedolim what to ask? that’s how my rebbeim taught me tosfos; to understand what and why they’re asking, not just to answer their kushyos.
editedNovember 2, 2022 2:30 pm at 2:30 pm #2134776Reb ShlomoParticipant
When we were in Yeshiva elementary school we learned Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel Aleph, Shmuel Bais, Malochim Aleph & Malochim Bais & Megilas Esther. After that it was nothing but pure Gemara all the time. As a result I really have no sense of Jewish history at all.November 2, 2022 2:55 pm at 2:55 pm #2134782
Avira, and who are you exactly to have an opinion?November 2, 2022 3:51 pm at 3:51 pm #2134802
It already is taught and has been taught for ages. What planet are you from?November 2, 2022 6:17 pm at 6:17 pm #2134839besalelParticipant
avira: from the passage quote from Rav Sternbuch, above, the Chasam Sofer seems to be saying not to learn Tanach without meforshim.
ujm: did you know that Rabbi Avigdor Miller was a real master of the Tanach – having mastered it at a very young age when his only form of Jewish education was his grandfather’s teaching? I do not know whether Rabbi Miller would agree with Haruv Sternbuch on this issue.
Perhaps Rav Sternbuch is reacting to his society where Israeli public schools teach tanach the same way they do shakespeare and in the way the chiloni public venerates the tanach (for the sole purpose of disparaging the talmud).November 2, 2022 8:58 pm at 8:58 pm #2134920
I learned a tradition from a Polish Yid who went thru concentration camp and taught me just several shiurim when we met while traveling: Yiddishkeit can be best “proven” from Jewish history. One needs to know it then (and surrounding history too).November 2, 2022 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm #2134934
Why can girls in school learn Tanach and not boys in yeshiva?November 2, 2022 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm #2134935HaLeiViParticipant
In Yeshiva you are not taught all the Torah you’ll need to kniw. You are taught the skills to be able to learn on your own. No one is stopping you from going through Nach when you have the time.November 2, 2022 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm #2134944
Philosopher: Girls aren’t allowed to be taught a curriculum of Torah Shebal Peh in school. That leaves Torah Shebksav.November 3, 2022 2:17 am at 2:17 am #2134956
Ujm, girls are chayav to know all of the shulchan aruch that covers hilchos shabbos, kashrus, tefila, chametz, and much much more. Can you say you covered all that? It sounds like you’re a neo tzedukiNovember 3, 2022 10:37 am at 10:37 am #2135005gartelParticipant
Tanach was removed from yeshiva curriculum during the times of the maskilim who were bending the meaning to teach their point if view.
Many yeshivos teach it.
When I was in Torah vodaath it was taught.
edited auto correctNovember 3, 2022 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm #2135015midwesternerParticipant
I don’t get Reb Shlomo. He says he learned Yehoshua, Shoftim, Shmuel and Melachim, but he’s complaining he doesn’t know history? Those that he did learn are 90% of all the history in Tanach! There’s virtually no history in any of the other sefarim, other than Daniel Ezra and Nechemiah.November 3, 2022 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm #2135016takahmamashParticipant
Tanach should be taught, along with English, math, and science.November 3, 2022 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm #2135023BarryLS1Participant
I think it’s essential to teach TANACH. There are so many missionaries out there targeting Jews. Lots of Yeshiva students don’t know how to answer, both for themselves and for observers of any conversation.November 3, 2022 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm #2135024
I’ve spoken to many Sefardim and Mikra/Tanach is a very big part of their mesora. Maybe because they didn’t have to deal with Haskala. For them, to ask them this question “Should Tanach be taught” is preposterous.November 3, 2022 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm #2135014Reb EliezerParticipant
What is Ranch?
it was an auto correct for TanachNovember 3, 2022 2:05 pm at 2:05 pm #2135063
This is a ridiculous thread. We’re talking about whether or not Tanach, the basis of all Torah, should be taught??November 3, 2022 4:45 pm at 4:45 pm #2135105chaim_baruchParticipant
This idea of NOT learning “Nach” (nobody restricts learning Chumash with commentary) is something new. This is because, like living in E”Y, and speaking of the Hebrew language, the study of Tanach (albeit as ancient history, rather than the word of Hashem) was embraced by many secular Zionists.
So as not to appear, copying the ways of the “secular Zionists”. These three extremely important aspects of Jewish life were either limited or simply ignored completely by many Jews.
Clearly one of the greatest examples of “cutting off one’s nose to spite his face”November 3, 2022 6:30 pm at 6:30 pm #2135171
Yabia, tell me one aspect of yiddishkeit that you are missing out on (besides the mitzvah to know the entire torah) if all you learn is divrei chazal?
Tanach is not the “basis” of yiddishkeit; mesorah and torah shebaal peh are. Without that, we have books that we don’t understand and commandments that are incomprehensible.
Chavivin divrei sofrim midivrei Torah.
Do yourself a favor. Take off the knit fabric, open a sefer besides a blank tanach, and see what kind of yiddishkeit is presented by its torch bearers. learn mesilas yeshorim, chovoa halevavos. The baalei mussar, maybe some chasidus. Learn the depth of Torah, not stories about people you think you have some grasp of.
It’s like the chasam sofer said, people who emphasize tanach (besides taimanim, thsy have a strong mesorah for this) minimize its importance, because they think they understand things and that the people of tanach were just simple people like us.November 3, 2022 9:08 pm at 9:08 pm #2135206
Ujm, you have not answered my question. If girls can learn Tanach, then why can’t boys? And as Shimon Model pointed out, girls learn much of Torah sh’baal pe so your answer is not relevant.November 3, 2022 9:17 pm at 9:17 pm #2135214
Avira, Tanach is actually the very basis of Yiddishkeit. Everything from Torah Sh’baal Peh; Mishna, Gemarrah, all meforshim, all Chazals, choivos halvovos, mesilas yeshurin, etc.etc.etc., everything , everything is based on Tanach. The Jewish women in der Alter Heim read, or had a woman in shul read to them, the Tzena Rena. Chumash is the very foundation of Yiddishkeit, it is vital that every single Jew know Chumash we’ll. Nach is the beams and it is very important that every Jew know Nach well; Torah Sh’baal Pe is BASED ON Torah Shebachsav.November 3, 2022 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm #2135216
Phil, sorry, that’s just not true. Torah is adus, a testament to what transpired. Torah sheb”p is in torah shebichs”v, as the gaon would learn from a sefer torah and see the entire torah sheba”p, but in the level that we learn it, there’s not one facet of yiddishkeit that you’re going to understand just by knowing tanach. And that’s why missionaries and frei people do just fine in tanach contests while they know nothin of judaismNovember 3, 2022 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm #2135220
Apparently, it is not the first time, Jews are bending curriculum to make sure we are different from the opposition. We used to have 10 commandments as a central part of service, and now it is an optional personal reading. We started insisting that we focus on mitzvos v. emunah in opposition to christians … and now Nach because it was/is misused by Maskilim/Israeli public schools. It may be fine for general education, but learned people should understand better. Otherwise, as we hear here, suddenly so many books that Hashem ordered for us become “non-essential” in some minds. If Hashem meant to give us Bavli, he would have done it.November 3, 2022 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm #2135233
Philosopher: Not everything the many girls schools teach was approved of by Gedolei Poskim.November 3, 2022 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm #2135235
Mikra IS the basis of all Torah. Period. Someone who says otherwise has had an interruption in his Mesora. Perhaps you are not Zera Israel?November 3, 2022 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm #2135238
Alwaysaskquestions, I think this is the first time I agree with you. This particular line that you wrote stands out to me “Otherwise, as we hear here, suddenly so many books that Hashem ordered for us become “non-essential” in some minds.” It is absolutely horrifying to me how lightly Tanach is taken by apparently many.November 3, 2022 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm #2135240user176Participant
Avira, these mussar books bring pesukim from tanach to supposed every line. Have you learned hovot halevavot or shaare teshuva? I’ve never seen anyone dance with a Gemara on simchat Torah. Studying torah shebichtav is literally studying Gods word. Maybe you are worried about maskilim etc. but there is no denying the importance of learning Tanach. It’s sad that people just skip over the pesukim in mussar books and even Gemara. Just see what the artscroll says and move on…November 4, 2022 2:09 am at 2:09 am #2135258
Chazal say in the Mishnah that Tanakh should be taught starting at age 5. How can any modern rabbi question that?November 4, 2022 2:09 am at 2:09 am #2135259
‘Tanach is not the “basis” of yiddishkeit; mesorah and torah shebaal peh are.”
That is absolutely untrue — according to Torah she Baal peh. Chazal reference Tanakh all the time! And Mesorah has been largely lost to Ashkenazim thanks to the migration to America, and the Communists and Nazis in Europe. 🙁November 4, 2022 2:10 am at 2:10 am #2135260
Ujm, I guess you know better than the rabbonim whose guidance the schools are under, from Yeshivish to most Chassidishe and every frum school in between, from the US to Israel and in every Jewish community on the globe, practically all frum schools teach halacha and at least half, if not more, of Yahadus studies for girls are from Torah Shebaal Pe… Perhaps all these gedolim and Rabbonim should’ve consult with Rabbi UJM, the rabbi of The Coffee Room.November 4, 2022 2:10 am at 2:10 am #2135263
“Yidden learn the original with Rashi, which gives an entirely different result”
Exactly. We need to teach Tanakh with our own commentaries. The Christians spin things to justify some of their own positions ans we need to be able to defend ourselves.
“the number of goyim with even cheder-leval literacy in Hebrew is negligible”
Yup.November 4, 2022 2:11 am at 2:11 am #2135264
User, rav boruch ber DID dance with a sefer of torah sheball peh on simchas torah – gra”ch al harambam. He felt that it was the shpitz torah she baal peh. He would dance with both the sefer Torah and his rebbes sefer at the same time.
Also, how is gemara any less the word of God than chumash? That’s very not Orthodox. If anything, a line gemara represents God’s will in the revealed sense, because it’s more accessible and clearer than what Hashem hid inside the pesukim of tanach.
My point about the seforim we learn isn’t that they’re to the exclusion of tanach. Let me clarify – if a person reads tanach, he will not grasp even one basic notion of yiddishkeit the way he’s meant to. He might come away thinking all sorts of apikorsus too, like naaseh Odom, yad Hashem, etc…
What you DO get from learning the seforim, is yiddishkeit. They quote pesukim and chazal all the time, but they’re explaining what those pesukim and maamarim mean, as opposed to the blind study of it alone.
Even with rashi, you’d need to be quite a talmid chochom to erect a Torah worldview from tanach itself; you gain much more yiras shomayim and daas Torah from sifrei mussar and hashkofa.
It’s not belittling tanach chas veshalom, it’s belittling our lowly place in the way we relate to it.November 4, 2022 7:59 am at 7:59 am #2135272
Avirah, missionaries do not do well with Tanach at all. Missionaries quote mistranslated and misconstrued verses, never in context. The vast majority, if any, missionaries, do not know Tanach at all. They are taught misconstrued and mistranslated verses that were taken out of context to “prove that their religion is true”. When you show them the context and the real translation they are always shocked.
As for the frei people, well yes, certainly we need both Torah Shebaschsav and Torah Shebaal Pe to be able to be a frum Yid, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Torah Shebachsav is the foundation of Torah Shebaal Pe.November 4, 2022 8:01 am at 8:01 am #2135281
Ujm, the gedolei Yisrael don’t approve of girls learning halacha? Sheker gamur.
Avira, so the GRA isn’t mesorah? He says that every boy must know all of tanach and be able to remember all of chumash b’al peh. The Rambam in hilchos talmud Torah, says that everyone must know all of mikra and dedicate a third of his limud to study mikra (unless he’s already a baki in all of Torah)November 4, 2022 8:04 am at 8:04 am #2135286
If “Gedolim” and “Roshei Yeshiva” are saying to neglect Mikra, then yes I’m am absolutely saying I know better than them. Like one poster said, Mikra is LITERALLY the word of Hashem. What’s the matter with you guys? As I once heard some say, “מתוך אהבתם לתורה שכחו את הקב”ה”November 4, 2022 10:06 am at 10:06 am #2135357
> how is gemara any less the word of God than chumash?
a false dichotomy? any gemora discussion presumes full knowledge of Tanach. Nobody is saying “maybe there is another pasuk about this”. All relevant psukim are quoted. There is more confusion with oral Torah, everyone knew the mishnayos, but not the other sources.November 4, 2022 10:34 am at 10:34 am #2135375
Philosopher: As having been brought up Satmar yourself, you should very well know that in Beis Rochel they don’t even teach the girls Rashi on Chumash, for the very reason that Rashi is Torah Shebal Peh.November 4, 2022 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm #2135397
Ujm, Satmer certainly taught and teaches meforshim, including Rashi. Since they don’t teach Chumash in the actual Chumash, they teach it in Yiddish under a subject called “parshah” they therefore don’t teach Rashi on each posek, but in general meforshim, including Rashi, are taught together with the parshah.
BTW, I wasn’t “bought up Satmer”. I’m not from a Satmer family at all. I’m Chassidish, but I’m not Satmer.November 4, 2022 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm #2135401
When i said missionaries, i was referring to the Israeli ones who know Hebrew. You’re correct that the goyim usually don’t know it at all.
Shimon – no one’s saying not to know tanach. It’s a mitzvah. And an obligation. What I’m saying is that it’s not the main thing in practice due to our inability to take from it what was intended. Its STUDY is definitely not the “foundation” of Torah, because you won’t learn anything about normative yiddishkeit from reading a blank tanach. Quite the opposite; you’ll come away with twisted ideas and misunderstandings of the text, such as the examples i gave. But you’ll also, like the chasam sofer said, minimize people like shaul, dovid, who made errors. You’ll think they’re not different than you.November 4, 2022 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm #2135399akupermaParticipant
ujm and Philosopher: But anyone frum who learns Humash without Rashi is likely to actually be learning Humash according to Rashi, since that is how Jews understand Humash.
By way of contrast, goyim and frei Jews learn “Bible” based on the text without reference to the oral tradition which is why they end up with rather queer (meaning weird and deviant with no special reference to the 21st century meaning of the word which we don’t discuss) ideas about Tanach. Indeed, the basic tenet of the “fundamentalists” is that “Bible”, meaning King James’s adaptation, must be understood solely by looking at the text without reference to external sources; no frum Yid would ever be a “fundamentalist”.November 4, 2022 1:53 pm at 1:53 pm #2135434
So now Avira is changing her position. Now she’s saying that it’s the STUDY that’s not central. Why do we have to add to what Chachmei HaMishna said? We’re smarter than them? They said at 5 Mikra, at 10 Mishna etc.November 4, 2022 1:53 pm at 1:53 pm #2135445
Akuperma, Christians do not know Tanach, the just misconstrue and mistranslate verses taken out of context to “prove their religion is true”. There are some individual Christian who know Tanach but they are rare exceptions. Israeli missionaries do know Tanach, as Avira pointed out, but there are very, very few Israeli Jewish missionaries, not more than a few individuals. The overwhelming majority of missionaries, even those operating in Israel, are non-Jews who don’t know Tanach well, if anything, at all.
King James bible “adaptations” are flights of human fantasy so it’s irrelevant to how Yidden learn Tanach. Now I am certainly not minimizing the importance of learning Tanach within the framework and clarity of Torah SheBaal Peh, I am certainly not minimizing learning Rashi with Chumash. The Torah is extremely deep and we do not know how to navigate it properly without the clarity of our Sages. My point is simply that it is very important for Yidden to know the basics of Yiddishkeit with is Tanach, but of course, only within the framework of what our Rabbis taught us because that is the only way we can know how to live the life the Torah demands of us; through the practical applications of Torah law and Torah hashkafa that our great Rabbis taught us.November 4, 2022 4:24 pm at 4:24 pm #2135467Reb ShlomoParticipant
Included in Tanach is Sefer Tehillim which many of us recite on a regular basis. Indeed a great proportion of our davening is comprised of kapitalech Tehillim. Is it not important for us to know and understand perush hamilos and the meaning of our prayers? I feel that for that reason alone it is important that it be taught. If we want Hashem to answer our prayers, at minimum we ourselves should understand what we are asking him for.November 4, 2022 4:25 pm at 4:25 pm #2135470
phil, we need to be more specific when protecting against the missionaries. What exactly we should point in KJ to highlight their problems?November 4, 2022 4:25 pm at 4:25 pm #2135471
It seems to me that Rav’s concern about Nach was not about missionaries but about more prevalent Israeli schools where Nach might be read exclusively in nationalistic terms, and we do not want this in a yeshiva.
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