Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Beth Hillel - from a Pedagogical Perspective

Many, even many great Rabbis, have a tendency to view their own school of thought as THE exclusive way to understand a Halachah or a Minhag

EG Ashkenazim usually presume Qitniyyot as an axiomatic given
OTOH Sephardim presume just the opposite.

The Basic Story of Beth Hillel as Traditionally Understood

A lesson in Humility is taught by the Talmud; I.E. That Beth Hillel deferentially taught Beth Shammai's opinion FIRST before moving on to teaching its own school's opinion. W/O a doubt,
The Talmud is emphasizing a sense of Humility. [Also, derech eretz, elu v'elu, Win-Win, I'm OK You're OK, etc.]

An Insight - Reading Between the Lines

Here is an insight, a drash, from an educational standpoint. BH is not just being humble, BH is also teaching OPEN-MINDEDNESS. That is to say

Here is another school's opinion, one which we [respectfully] reject
And now here is OUR opinion, the one WE embrace.

Subtly, the minds of BH are conditioned away from rigidity into a more flexible approach to learning!

This is borne out by the number of times BH eventually did an "about-face" and taught like BS. Having been exposed in a fair-minded manner, they were not fixated nor locked-in to a single paradigm.

[Note: a Colleague of mind terms this: "binocularity"]

It does NOT appear that Beth Shammai shared this approach. In fact, this approach seems to have been the exception, not the rule. EG It seems the Rambam had one exclusive Viewpoint.

And While this approach is not the typical, it does
Come up now again.

E.G. Both the Mishnah and the Tur present different opinions, but rarely explain them in depth. Yet with the full range of conclusions available, a dialectic is easily created by analyzing the various opinions.

Perhaps the paradigmatic Poseiq that follows this approach is the Beth Yosef who usually expounds the multi-faceted POV's of a given Halachah.

The Shukchan Aruch Harav aims to take 2 approaches to a given while still arriving at a single conclusion. It makes the SA Harav quite a bit more readable than most dry Posqim.

As a Master Melamed, R YD Soloveichik was outstanding at showing how a sugya in the Talmud can be parsed by 2 different Rishonim. This tension between 2 approaches was exploited by the Rav to make for a very exciting Shiur. Talmudic Tennis so to speak.

OTOH, the Kitzur SA reverted to the Rambam's single POV. And so R Mordechai Eliyahu sought to remedy this by expanding it with 5 more approaches

• 1 Mishnah Brurah
• 2 Misgeret Hahsulchan [following SA Harav]
• 3 BY-SA
• 4 Ben Ish Hai
• 5 Kaf HaHayyim

Thus a narrow POV is expanded. "Binocularity is achieved"

Hagahot Maimoniyyot
Expanded the Rambam
And Hagahot HaRema
Expanded the Shulchan Aruch.

All of these authors and teachers followed in the pedagogical footsteps of BH, to enable seeing a Sugya or a Psaq from at least 2 perspectives

Talmud Teachers often do this using Rashi and Tosafot

We would be well served to balance Rashi on Humash with an alternative POV. Ramban is one, but often complex. Rashbam comes to mind but perhaps Sipporno is the most educator friendly.

Indoctrinating Students with Rashi's peirush as the exclusive definitive read of a Passuq, serves to limit their flexibility later on in life


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