Sunday, November 27, 2016

Interview with R' Yaakov Weinberg on the Importance of Skill in Hebrew

Question: Should yeshivos have a curriculum to teach lashon hakodesh in an organized manner or is it enough to depend on teitch, reading and translating? And should dikduk be taught?

Rav Weinberg: One time everyone knew that you had to learn dikduk. But I'm not sure that today it would be a good idea because you need an extraordinarily good teacher to teach a proper and helpful dikduk. The dikduk taught today may not be all that helpful.

But there is one thing everyone should know. The most important thing that any school that hopes their children will go on to learn in a high school must give them -- more important than Chumash, halachah, Gemara, and hashkafah -- is to be able to read and translate. If they are able to read and translate they will have a future in which they can, for example, learn the Mesilas Yesharim quickly. You know that to learn Mesilas Yesharim properly you have to run through it a few times to know its totality before you can learn it slowly. But a bachur today cannot learn it that way because he is struggling with each sentence to figure out what the words mean. Therefore there is no such thing as learning through the Mesilas Yesharim or the Sha'arei Teshuvah. Baruch Hashem, today we have Artscroll and other translations. Now he can forget about reading the Sha'arei Teshuvah and learn the English, The Gates of Repentance. Beautiful! But would it not have been nice if he could learn it inside?

What will this bachur read? If he knows how to read Hebrew, there are midrashim, sefarim, and histories. If he cannot read Hebrew, he has to read English. So what is he going to read -- a Western, a mystery? You are closing doors on him.

The most important thing that any school can do for its children is to enable them to read lashon hakodesh. Then, when they are in the ninth grade, they will go through the Chumash and read Mishnah and be able to make a leining on Gemara, and their whole future and existence will be different. So instead you are going to learn another parashah Chumash and take away their whole future? Think -- make a cheshbon. There is no more important thing that a school to give the children than the ability to read lashon hakodesh because it opens a whole world to him. But if he cannot read Hebrew, it is closed! Baruch Hashem, ArtScroll makes a lot things accessible than they used to be, but, gevalt, is that the answer?

Question: But is tieitching enough for that?

Rav Weinberg:  What can I tell you? I don't know. You must understand that I have no experience in the classroom. I can tell you my best understanding of what the halachos of chinuch say -- halachos that I learned and struggled over, that I take out of the Gemara, Rambam, and Shulchan Aruch -- but you have to tell me what happens in a classroom. I do not know which is the most effective way to teach the Hebrew. For that I have to listen and learn from you.

"Rav Yaakov Weinberg talks about chinuch," 36a and 36b, Targum Press

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