Teaching chumash - Using Mefarshim to Analyze Critical Thinking
David SchlusselbergTeaching Chumash – Using Mefarshim to Promote Critical thinkingParshatKorach - 10thGrade Girls at Kushner (Middle Track)“Let’s begin today’s class by reviewing a bit of what we covered in yesterday’s class.” I would spend thenext few minutes asking my students to name the characters involved in the story, and why (based onthe Rashi’s that we did). I would ask them to tell me what argument Korach makes to demonstrate whyhe and all his followers are just as holy as Moshe and Aharon.“For today’s class, we are going to take an in-depth analysis at Moshe’s reaction. At first glance, whenwe read the pasuk in a few moments it may seem fairly obvious what is occurring. However, throughthe lens of the mefarshim, we are going to see that there are different approaches to what Mosheactually does, and why Moshe does which he does. I know this sounds a bit cryptic now, but in a fewmoments you will understand better. Let’s read pasukdaled. Can I get a volunteer to read for theclass?”“Good job Sarah. This pasuk seems pretty straight forward. We are now going to look at a fewmefarshim on this pasuk who will be answering different questions that arise from this seeminglyinnocent pasuk. First, are there any questions which bother you about this pasuk, or comments youwould like to make?” As the class makes suggestions, I will put their comments on the board, and makereference to them, when they are in line with a question, or comment that one of the mefarshim make.“We are going to look at a Rashi, Ramban and Rashbam today. We are going to start with Rashi now. Iam going to ask you to read the Rashi with the person sitting next to you (or I will specifically make pre-assigned groups). I am going to give out an index card to each group and I want you to write down on itwhat Rashi is coming to address. The possibilities are: textual, grammatical, contextual, logical,moral/religious or philosophical (They will be put up on the board). When you finish reading the Rashi, Iwould like you to write the category on the index card, and you will hold it up when I will say so. Okay,can I get a volunteer to tell the class what we are going to be doing now?... Okay great, so break up intoyour groups and please begin reading the Rashi.”
“Now that everyone has read the Rashi, can each group please hold up your index card. Does any groupwant to share why they wrote what they did?” They will share their thoughts, and we will establish thatit seems Rashi is addressing context. “Why do you think Rashi quoted all those pesukim?” After takingsome suggestions I will point out that it seems Rashi is showing thatthis is the fourth time that he hashad to deal with BneiYisrael acting improper.[In my actual class that I taught this Rashi, I told the class about the concept of chazakah at this point. Itold them an example about how if I walk into the classroom in the morning and I see a student boughtme an apple I would be pleasantly surprised. If that happened the next day I would once again besurprised by this infrequent occurrence. However, once this has taken place three or four times (it is amachloketin the Gemara) I will expect it. I told the class, that Moshe has dealt with their mishapsmultiple times as Rashi has pointed out, however he now realizes that it isn’t just a random occurrence,but it is now something that seems like it will continue.]“What do you think motivated Rashi to make this point? I certainly think we could have continuedreading the pesukim and would not have been bothered that Moshe was upset. So what message didRashi want to convey, and how does that message fit into Rashi’s overall agenda for the way he explainspesukim?”This question was based off the article, where Armon suggests asking the class, “How does this quotereflect the individual style of the parshan?”“We are now going to read a Ramban together. We are going to be doing a choral reading,which means that we are going to read it together as a class. As we learn the Ramban Iwant you to think, just as we did by Rashi, what question the Ramban is bothered by. Theoptions are on the board behind me (textual, grammatical, contextual, logical, moral/religious orphilosophical). I will not ask for you to write it on an index card this time, but I will want tohear suggestions after we read the Ramban together. Can somebody please inform theclass what we will be doing now?”…[I now use choral reading in my classes frequently.]
“What about the pasuk is bothering the Ramban?... Very good, so we see that he is concerned about thegrammer of the pasuk, specifically about the word . Beside the technical grammatical point theRamban mentions, what message about Aharon and his position of being the Kohengadol is conveyed bythis Ramban?” This question was based off the presentation. Since this Ramban is not too long andcomplex, I didn’t think it was necessary to cover most of the points that you covered in the presentation,rather, I picked the most necessary and beneficial ones for the class to help them better understandwhat the Ramban is teaching us. “How does this Ramban differ from the Rashi we just saw?” Thearticle mentioned that it is important to compare and contrast comments given by mefarshim.Although, I assume she was talking about comments that are addressing the same question, I think it isimportant for the class to verbalize that each perushis tackling a different issue in this passuk.“We are now going to be learning the final perush for today’s lesson – the Rashbam. As we have doneuntil now, I want you to think about what the Rashbam is addressing in the pasuk. As we have alreadyseen, different mefarshim have been focusing on different problems. I am going to ask for a volunteerto read, and then we will decide which question he is addressing. Michelle, can you please tell the classwhat we are going to be doing now?...”“So, can someone please tell the class what type of question the Rashbam is addressing? Very goodDanielle; does anyone have a different answer? There can certainly be various questions that one canargue he is making. If one said it is a religious point, I think that may be correct. Can anyone tell mehow this can be a religious point? Correct, maybe he is saying that when someone is confronted with anissue they should daven to Hashem. Where do we see this in the Torah?... Good, we see this by Yaakov,where he davened before going to see Eisav. Although Rashi and the Rashbam are commenting on thesame words, what unique approach to these words do they each bring that the other does not dealwith?” A student suggests that Rashi is dealing with a much larger scale about why Moshe fell on hisface, while Rashi doesn’t deal with what he did when he fell on his face, while the Rashbam deals withwhat Moshe specifically did while falling on his face in this specific instance, and does not touch uponand overall reason why Moshe fell on his face. “Great answer (I couldn’t have said it better myself )”“I am going to now hand out a worksheet to be completed for the next five minutes of class. You are todo the worksheet on your own, but you may use your notes if you need. This worksheet will becollected at the end of class, so be sure to write neatly. Can someone repeat what we are going to bedoing now?...”Questions on the worksheet:Note: Many of these questions were taken by the article, as ways to get them to critically think aboutthe mefarshim they have learnt.1. Which perush said the following words: ?
2. Based on question number one, was that perush coming to address a textual, grammatical,contextual, logical, moral/religious or philosophical question from the pasuk?3. I would like you to draw a picture demonstrating the Rashbam’s view regarding what the wordsmean?4. Can you articulate the difference between what Rashi was addressing, and what the Rashbamwas suggesting?5. Why did Rashi need to quote all those pesukim?6. How did Rashi’s explanation go in line with his general approach of explaining thepeshutoshelmikra?7. What questions do you still have unanswered?