Sunday, November 6, 2022

the importance of mitzvos

What do we mean by תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם?

DH: What do we mean by תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם?

Rabbi Soloveitchik: It is not that this mitzvah is equal to all the mitzvos, but rather that it brings the person to do all the other mitzvos. The whole purpose of the limud is that it comes to asiah and asiah is the ikur.

The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 69

And From There You Shall Seek, p. 104

Bottom line: Hashem acts, so we must act. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Hebrew at the Maimonides School

 Jewish schools all over chutzeh l'aretz either don't put enough effort into teaching the Hebrew language or don't do it all. However, the Rav's Maimonides School in Brookline, MA appears to take it very seriously as all schools should.


About Our Hebrew Curriculum

Knowledge, performance, and competency of any foreign language include two independent systems that complement each other in many ways: The acquired system and the learned system.

The acquired system, or acquisition, is the product of a subconscious process very similar to the one children undergo when they acquire their first language. It requires meaningful interaction in the target language – natural communication – in which speakers concentrate not on the form of their utterances, but on the communicative act.

The learned system, or learning, is the product of formal instruction and comprises a conscious process which results in conscious knowledge about the language, for example knowledge of grammar rules.

A deductive approach in a teacher-centered setting produces learning, while an inductive approach in a student-centered setting leads to acquisition.

Learning Pathways
At Maimonides School our students acquire the Hebrew language through four diverse and unique pathways.


Our wish and goal for our students is to test their knowledge and proficiency level through the International Hebrew Exam during 11th or 12th grade. This new initiative is a university-level course and test, taught and conducted by our Hebrew department teachers in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

In order to achieve the goal of succeeding in the International Hebrew Exam, all Maimonides students are exposed to and being taught the following learning pathways:

First Pathway: Bishvil Ha-Ivrit Curriculum
The Middle and Upper School curriculum is divided into three levels, and each level has two parts:

  • Beginner – Bishvil Ha-Ivrit books 1 and 2
  • Intermediate – Bishvil Ha-Ivrit books 3 and 4
  • Advanced – Bishvil Ha-Ivrit book 5 and NETA books 21-25

Second Pathway: Independent, Authentic Learning Units
Every year, the Hebrew Language Department continues to develop learning units for all grades and levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). These units are created and developed through personal connections and familiarity with our students and their interests. The units are not only student-centered, but also based on second language acquisition theories and research-based assessment tools. These units differ in content, function, scope of sequence, complexity, and language objectives, and strive to make use of as many authentic materials as possible.

Third Pathway: Reading Books and Reading Journals
The “People of the Book” (Am Ha-Sefer) need no justification for the importance of reading. Nevertheless, in recent years few leading applied linguistics researchers have identified reading books in the target language as a critical component of second language acquisition.

For these reasons, our department has developed a unique reading program:

  • Each year students will read two books that are aligned with their proficiency level in content, length, complexity, and cognitive development.
  • For each book we developed a supportive assessment and understanding mechanism, which is the reading journal. The reading journal is also our basis for class discussions, projects, and knowledge enrichment. 
  • The books for the beginner and intermediate levels were written for those learners, whereas our goal is that the advanced level will read authentic books during this time.

Fourth Pathway: Israeli High School-Oriented Proficiency
We take pride in each of our students for their achievements and individual strengths. This is why we choose to further challenge the advanced level students in three areas of content which form the core of our shared identity: Literature, citizenship, and Judaism.