Volume 55 Number 51
                    Produced: Fri Aug 24  9:44:23 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conversational Hebrew
         [Dr. Josh Backon]
Finances and Judaism
         [Art Sapper]
Orthodox don't contribute
         [Len Linder]
Query re messianic era (2)
         [Joel Rich, Yakir]
shvo no/noch
         [Perets Mett]
Teaching in Hebrew
         [Ari Trachtenberg]


From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 18:31:33 +0300
Subject: Conversational Hebrew

As usual [tm], I blame the schools as well as the textbooks used in
teaching Hebrew. We www.jewishbible.org in Israel give NY State Board of
Regents approved proficiency exams in Hebrew and Judaic Studies for
college credit accepted by over 1500 US colleges. These exams include:
elementary, intermediate and advanced modern Hebrew, elementary and
intermediate biblical Hebrew as well as exams in gemara, halacha and
Jewish music.

After dealing with over 350 American, Canadian and British yeshiva and
seminary students who have taken the exams, I have noticed a very
interesting pattern.  After seeing (on the application) which schools
the students attended at grade school and high school, we automatically
can predict which student will excel on the Hebrew exams. Kudos go to
the Eitz Chaim elementary school in Toronto. I haven't got the faintest
idea HOW they do it, but no matter where their graduates attend yeshiva
high school, those who have been at Eitz Chaim do spectacularly well on
the exams. Other schools should see how they teach Hebrew.

I personally recommend the English language book by Edward Horowitz "How
the Hebrew Language Grew" www.ktav.com whose 200 pages read like a
novel. Anyone reading this gets an excellent intuitive grasp of the
Hebrew language.  One Israeli professor of Hebrew language and
linguistics was so impressed by this (non-academic) book that she uses
this English book for her graduate students in Hebrew language and
linguistics at Hebrew University!! And there's an excellent CD on
Biblical Hebrew at www.davka.com (even though I've found that a 3 page
handout we give students which I humorously call "Biblical Hebrew for
Dummies" is more than adequate for them to grasp the key points in
understanding biblical Hebrew) if they've first read "How the Hebrew
Language Grew".

As I tell the students, the halachic requirements for studying Limudei
Kodesh start with Hebrew grammar (see: Chavot Yair 124, R. Yaakov Emden
in Migdal Oz 16d-17a, Introduction of the GRA on Shulchan Aruch Orach
Chaim), followed by all of Tanach (Torah, Neviim and Ketuvim) (see: Rosh
Hagiv'a 11a, R. Chaim of Volozhin in Keter Rosh 58, and the Netziv in
the beginning of his Ha'emek Davar 5).  Only after one masters Hebrew
and Tanach does one start with Mishna and Gemara.

Those who stress thorough mastery of all of Tanach include: ROSH on Bava
Metzia 2 toward the end; R. Yaakov Lipman Heller in his Introduction to
the Maadaney Yom Tov to Bava Kama; the Maharal in Gur Aryeh to Devarim
6:7 and in his Tiferet Yisrael 56; the SHELAH at the beginning of
Shevuot; Vavey Ha'Amudim, Amud Hatorah 5; the Meharsha on the gemara in
Sanhedrin 24a; Yosif Ometz 270, 284; the Amudey Shesh 24; the Bach on
TUR Yoreh Deah 245 d"h haya minhag; R. Yaakov Emden in his Siddur Beit
Yaakov in Hilchot Talmud Torah; the Pri Megadim at the beginning of
Orach Chaim; the Even Sheleima 8:2; Toldot Adam 3; Shulchan Aruch HaRav
Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:1; SHU'T Zera Emet Yoreh Deah 107; the Netivot
Hamishpat; R. Shimshon Refael Hirsch in Chorev 551.

Yet we see schools giving perfunctory instruction in Hebrew and rushing
over Tanach in order to start mishnayot in 5th grade and gemara in
6th. And parents being dumb enough to pay $20,000 a year in
tuition. Unfortunately, I don't see the "greste gedoilim" [tm] in gemara
coming out of these yeshiva high schools. Their knowledge of Hebrew and
Tanach is (as you say in Chinese) "shoin upgereht" :-)

Josh Backon


From: <asapper@...> (Art Sapper)
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 09:19:11 -0400
Subject: Re: Finances and Judaism

Chaim Shapiro observes that Thomas Jefferson - the author of the remark
that "[t]o compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the
propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and
tyrannical" - was a strong supporter of free public education.  Thus,
the argument presumably goes, he would not believe that the current
situation is sinful and tyrannical.  With respect, this does not follow.

The situation of the Jewish community (and that of other religious and
ethnic minorities) in America now makes clear that these two ideals of
Jefferson can conflict.  The situation in Jefferson's time did not
present the contradiction because Virginia was then nearly entirely
Protestant, subscribed to a mild Deism, nearly all education then was
private, schools were rare, and public schools either non-existent or
nearly non-existent.  Jefferson was flesh and blood, and he had no
reason to foresee the conflict that would later come - and that is upon
us now.  I believe that Jefferson would assess the current situation
exactly as I do - sinful and tyrannical.

We also have an obligation to assess the situation for ourselves, and
not try to second-guess how a non-Jew (even one as great as Thomas
Jefferson) would assess it.  In my opinion, the present situation is
sinful, tyrannical, destructive of the Jewish community, and a threat to
its survival.  That is what should be the focus of our concern.


From: <lenlinder@...> (Len Linder)
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 09:51:09 -0400
Subject: Orthodox don't contribute

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
>Len Lindwe (V55 N49):
>> In New York City, as in many other localities, the amount of school aid
>> allocated to public schools is direclty related to the number of
>> children that ATTEND those schools.
>> Since yeshiva kids do not attend public schools their presence in the
>> community does not add a pfennig to public education and do in fact by
>> their absence deprive the public schools of badly needed funds.
>The total amount of money available to be allocated on the basis of
>attendence is limited by the amount of taxes collected.  Paying taxes
>while holding our kids out of school most certainly _does_ increase the
>average per-pupil size of the _overall_ pot.
>However, the benefit is spread over the entire school district, and the
>administrators at your local school might prefer to have $20,000,000 to
>run a school for 2,000 students rather than, say, $10,040,000 to run a
>school for 1,000 students.
>So, even though we are paying more than our share, school administrators
>might prefer that we did so in someone else's neighborhood -- so they
>could benefit from our subsidy without suffering a loss in the size of
>their empire.
>I guess the conclusion is that even though we are correct in feeling
>that we are pulling more than our share of the weight (at great personal
>hardship), much of the benefit does not necessarily accrue to the
>immediate neighborhood in which we live -- and therefore our immediate
>neighbors might not necessarily be thrilled at our arrival.
>I suppose that this problem only increases as taxation and program
>funding becomes centralized at higher levels of government.  If the
>federal government paid for education, no community would care feel
>grateful for the extra taxes we pay.  On the other hand, residents of a
>small _self-funded_ rural town in Iowa might well appreciate people who
>pay taxes while placing reduced demand upon city services.  (I suppose
>there is a political lesson there, somewhere.)

Frank - you are ignoring the fact that much of the governemt aid to
public shcools is either state based or federal based and not dependent
upon local taxes

Here in New York State there is an on-going battle over the amount of
the edication aid share that is allocated to New York City (smaller in
proportion to taxes paid) than to other loalities in the State.

And the bottom line is that we who are either now sending kids to
yeshiva or did so in the past cose to opt out of a benefit we were
entitled to.  We no more deseerve reimbursement than I do for the monies
spent on maintaining ruiral roads that I have never used

And when frum people run for local school boards with the intention of
diverting monies from public schools to yeshivot...then aside from
engendering lots of ill will we are ensuring that other communities will
take note and will take every step necessary to make sure that Orthodox
Jews do not want to move there (case in point Tenafly, New Jersey)



From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 10:05:38 -0400
Subject: Query re messianic era

> However, another Jewish member responded:
>>When the Messiah comes, the world will end.
>This statement of hers is completely inconsistent with my understanding
>of the effect of the arrival of the Mashiakh.  Am I completely out to
>sea here?  Have I missed an important part of Jewish eschatology?  Where
>might such a belief have arisen?
>Shayna in Toronto

Generally we focus on this world "basher hu sham" (as we experience it)
and let HKB"H worry about what comes next. Having said that refer to the
gemara in Sanhedrin 99a and you'll see even chazal were unsure of
"eschatology" however even there is the famous statement of shmuel "the
only difference will be lack of shibud malchiyot" (foreign dominance).
So as they used to say on the boardwalk, "everybody wins".  Especially
in Elul our focus should be on hastening the day when we see who is
right by getting our act together in the here and now.

Joel Rich

From: Yakir <yakirhd@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 17:11:40 +0300
Subject: re: Query re messianic era

>  However, another Jewish member responded:
>  >When the Messiah comes, the world will end.

I try to refrain from getting too involved in these issues as the
sources are, of necessity (IMO), vague and seemingly non-consistent, and
even when not it is not clear to me what their *real* meaning is.

Having said that, IIRC, a possible consistent source is in Talmud Bavli
Rosh HaShana where R' Akiva explains why the Shir Shel Yom (Daily Psalm)
for Shabbat is "Mizmor shir l'yom haShabbat" - "yom shekula Shabbat
umenucha lchayei olamim".  This is usually taken as a really extended
"long weekend", an extended period of Shabbat style rest and relaxation.
However, according to the Talmudic source the reference is to one or two
millenia (two opinions cited in the original) after the world's six
millenia when all will be quiet and there will be no "work" performed
because there will be no one around to do it.

After this period mankind comes back "on stage" in some form or other.

(pardon the flippant tone, but I don't understand what this means)

-- Yakir


From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 14:34:40 +0100
Subject: Re: shvo no/noch

someone wrote:

> I have a question on this subject. The verse in question has 3 words
> which start with a vav hahipuch with a shuruk: uv-lecht'cha,
> uv-shachb'cha, uv-kumecha. In what way is the second word different
> from the other two, so that in it the first shva is a matter of
> dispute among grammarians, while in the others the first shva is, from
> what I see, clearly nach?

Why do we get so excited about shvo no/noch while mispronouncing the
komats in uv(e)shOkhbecha?

Perets Mett


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 10:06:29 -0400
Subject: Re: Teaching in Hebrew

> In the day school, at orientation for fourth grade parents, the Hebrew
> teacher said that they began the year with a combination of Hebrew and
> English, and increased the Hebrew content to 100% ivrit be-ivrit once
> the girls understood.  I stopped going to these meetings after being
> told the same thing in sixth grade and after attending another meeting
> in which a large group of parents verbally attacked the Hebrew
> teachers, in the presence of the assistant principal, for giving too
> much homework and making things too hard.

At Maimonides in Boston, my son was taught limudei kodesh b'ivrit,
meaning that 50% of each and every day was taught exclusively in Hebrew.
The first graders had trouble for the first month or two, and some of
the parents were concerned about the difficulty (and the fact that they
themselves couldn't always help their kids), but, amazingly, all these
concerns disappeared after a couple months!

The kids all rose to the challenge, supported by a teacher who
stubbornly stuck to speaking Hebrew, and the parents accepted this.  The
time to start teaching Hebrew fluency is not in high school and not even
in fourth grade ... it has to start in kindergarten and first grade,
when language-learning skills are still strong.

And ... to second what others have been saying ... I feel that one
cannot properly understand Judaism without a solid understanding of
Hebrew, without which one is at the mercy of a translation that
necessarily limits or modifies the original meaning of a text.  It is
interesting to note, for example, how various religions fundamentally
affect the relationship between man and woman simply through their
translation of the phrase "ezer k'negdo" (some translate that woman was
created as a "help-meet" to man, others translate "servant" or "aid",
and yet none really capture the meaning).



End of Volume 55 Issue 51