13 Jun 2017

The Pre-Recorded Rabbi versus Live Video Torah Teaching

Rabbi, for those who are unable to attend a brick and mortar Yeshiva, why is having a Live Interactive Video Yeshiva for teaching Torah the next best thing?

R’Halevi began, “When I studied European History in college, I was very surprised to learn that in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, a major target of the Catholic Church was, of all things, Bible Societies. In fact, Pope Gregory XVI issued an encyclical in 1844, condemning these groups that were publishing and distributing Bibles to the masses; but wasn’t the Church all about the Bible, (or at least their interpretation of it)?”

The short answer was this, they wished to tell people what the Bible meant from THEIR perspective. We must keep in mind, that reading sources makes people think and that can be dangerous… very dangerous indeed.

R’Halevi considers the following, “A very similar situation exists, I am sorry to say, within Judaism. While one of the beauties of Judaism is that we have a wide spectrum of thought and ideology, even within Orthodoxy. Nevertheless, many groups see their own understanding as not only the “best” one, but often as the only “real” one. We have books and videos put out by various factions of Orthodoxy, that spoon feed us the “true” meaning of Torah. All too often, sources and facts that contradict that group’s ideology, are either censored out, or glossed over. I especially get upset when a rabbi is covering a text, and then concludes “but this is not what we do nowadays”.

Why not? Who said? Are his conclusions valid? And who exactly, is “we”?

R’Halevi continues. “I want to ask him, but he is only on tape. What is a “newbie” to do? First of all, a knowledge of sources is essential. While the traditional method of study in Yeshivot is to take a single verse or Talmudic passage, and analyse it and reanalyse it for hours or days, I believe that it is essential to first have learning that is big on scope, if short on depth. Once one possesses broad knowledge, one can delve into more minute points and nuances. This view is expressed a number of times in the Talmud. (Although some claim that it doesn’t apply “nowadays”).

Teachers and guides are very helpful while one is learning, in order to point out subtleties that one might overlook, or background material that might not be apparent in the text. Notice, I said “teachers” plural. Having more than one teacher, especially of different “streams” of Orthodoxy, is of inestimable value in seeing the multifaceted magnificence of Torah. Questions may be asked.

Learning happens.

Most lay publications, as well as, the phenomenon of online rabbinic lectures, do not allow for questioning. Sources may be quoted, but rarely in context. One online “rabbi” (I question his credentials) often attacks other Jewish groups and leaders (especially Chabad and Breslov), but when exposed, shouts “lashon hara!” (slander!). Like the Catholic Church’s old opposition to Bible Societies, some teachers simply do not want us to think or question. In my opinion, such is not the path of Torah. The Torah is vaster than the Heavens. Let’s not allow anyone to constrict it.”

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