An Instant Message: tekiah, shevarim, truah. These are the sounds of the shofar and these quick calls evoke so much memory and feeling. It’s interesting to note in this setting that there are quick responses that can be quite valuable.
The other night when I watched the debate, I was disturbed in the very beginning when one of the moderators – who was describing the rules of the evening – told the candidates that their answers should be given in sixty seconds. At that moment, I thought that the debate would probably be a waste of time. Sixty seconds is not enough time for a thoughtful answer, never mind enough time to express either policy or values.
The victim – in this world where everything comes at us in sound bytes and rapid fire – is consideration, deeper learning, and meaningful contemplation. There exists a type of pressure to ”get it” immediately and respond quicker. Yet, I think true learning and growth may come at a different pace. And not only that, it probably needs both reflection, association and feedback from others. I learned in an article by Father Robert Trache of St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Ft. Lauderdale that there is a new trend in education called “deeper learning.” It combines collaboration between learners, effective communication, problem solving and critical thinking. The goal is not only to learn more information but also to build character and increase confidence in oneself. With deeper learning, every student becomes a part of a collective vision. Students help each other and build upon each others ideas. It cannot be done alone or on a computer. And it is defined by a process, not just about creating a final product.
And although this is the latest in educational trends, it is found deep in traditional Jewish learning. In the beautiful teachings of “The Ethics of Our Fathers,” Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachiah said: Provide yourself with a Rav, acquire for yourself a Chaveir, and judge every person favorably. The teaching probably refers to study. The rav is a master. The chaveir is a colleague, friend, or study partner. And the chaveir is greatly valued in learning. Traditional Jewish learning takes place in Chavurot – two, three, maybe four people learning together – describing the text, asking questions, placing forward ideas, adding to the ideas etc. It can be a beautiful process.
That may be a meaningful resolution for the year to come. Find a chaveir with whom you can learn, exchange ideas, and think together. (I’d be happy to recommend some texts). It’s funny to think that it would be almost revolutionary in these days. No instant message, just thoughtful consideration. And when entering this process with care and honor, there is no judgement; just mutual support and understanding.
See you in shul,
Rabbi David Steinhardt
This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l