Teaching like Miss Frizzle... and like Rabbi Hiyya!

ריש לקיש הוה מציין מערתא דרבנן כי מטא למערתיה דר' חייא איעלמא מיניה חלש דעתיה
אמר "רבש"ע לא פלפלתי תורה כמותו?"
תה בת קול ואמרה לו "תורה כמותו פלפלת, תורה כמותו לא ריבצת" כי הוו מינצו ר' חנינא ור' חייא אמר ליה ר' חנינא לר' חייא
"בהדי דידי קא מינצית ח"ו אי משתכחא תורה מישראל מהדרנא לה מפילפולי"
אמר ליה ר' חייא לר' חנינא
בהדי דידי קא מינציתדעבדי לתורה דלא תשתכח מישראל מאי עבידנא אזלינא ושדינא כיתנא וגדילנא נישבי וציידנא טבי ומאכילנא בשרייהו ליתמי ואריכנא מגילתא וכתבנא חמשה חומשי וסליקנא למתא ומקרינא חמשה ינוקי בחמשה חומשי ומתנינא שיתא ינוקי שיתא סדרי ואמרנא להו עד דהדרנא ואתינא אקרו אהדדי ואתנו אהדדי ועבדי לה לתורה דלא תשתכח מישראל"
היינו דאמר רבי כמה גדולים מעשי חייא.

Resh Lakish was marking the burial caves of the Rabbis. But when he came to the grave of R. Hiyya, it was hidden from him, and he was discouraged.

'Sovereign of the Universe!' he exclaimed, 'did I not debate Torah as he did?'

Thereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out in reply:

"You did indeed debate Torah as he did, but you did not spread the Torah as he did." [And then, the Heavenly voice told a story…]

One time, R. Hanina and R. Hiyya [who were long-standing chevruta (study) partners] were in a debate. R. Hanina said to R. Hiyya:

"Would you dispute with me? If, Heaven forbid, the Torah were forgotten in Israel, I would simply restore it through my expert knowledge of the law and its details."

To which R. Hiyya responded:

"Would you dispute with me? By my actions, I actually ensured that the Torah will not be forgotten in Israel. What did I do? I went and sowed flax, made nets [from the flax cords], trapped deers, whose flesh I gave to orphans, and prepared scrolls [from their skins], upon which I wrote the five books [of the Torah]. Then I went to a town [which contained no teachers] and taught the five books to five children, and the six orders [of the Mishna] to six children And I implored them: 'Until I return, teach each other the Torah and the Mishnah;' and thus I preserved the Torah from being forgotten in Israel."

This is what Rabbi [meant when he] said, 'How great are the works of Hiyya!"

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some differences between the visions of R. Hanina and R. Hiyya for what one should do if “Torah is forgotten in Israel?”

2. In what ways is the pedagogy of Rabbi Hiyya similar to and different from what we think of as "Jewish experiential education"?

3. What tools/ methodologies do you think Rabbi Hiyya and Ms. Frizzle share?

4. Looking at the beginning of our text again, why do you think it difficult for Resh Lakish to locate R. Hiyya’s burial cave? What is the text trying to teach us by including this piece of the story?

5. How can we use this text and its messages in our work as teachers?

תנו רבנן: רבו שאמרו רבו שלמדו חכמה ולא רבו שלמדו מקרא ומשנה.

דברי ר"מ.

רבי יהודה אומר: כל שרוב חכמתו הימנו.

רבי יוסי אומר: אפילו לא האיר עיניו אלא במשנה אחת זה הוא רבו.

Our Rabbis taught: "One's Rav is defined as the individual who as taught you wisdom, and not the one who has taught you the Torah and Mishna."

This is Rabbi Meir’s opinion.

Rabbi Yehuda said: "Whoever has taught you most of their wisdom."

Rabbi Yossi said: "Even if the person did no more than make your eyes light up from an explanation of a single section of the Mishna - that person is your Rav."

Discussion Questions:

1. How are the various rabbis in our text defining a Rav (teacher)?

2. If it’s not just the oral or written law (Torah, Midrash, Talmud, etc.), then what is wisdom?

3. How do we "light up the eyes" of our students? What are the tools that we can use?

א"ר אמי מאי דכתיב (קהלת י, י) אם קהה הברזל והוא לא פנים קלקל אם ראית רקיע שקיהה כברזל מלהוריד טל ומטר בשביל מעשה הדור שהן מקולקלין שנא' והוא לא פנים קלקל מה תקנתן יתגברו ברחמים שנא' (קהלת י, י) וחילים יגבר ויתרון הכשיר חכמה כל שכן אם הוכשרו מעשיהן מעיקרא ריש לקיש אמר אם ראית תלמיד ח׳ א שלמודו קשה עליו כברזל בשביל משנתו שאינה סדורה עליו שנאמר (קהלת י, י) והוא לא פנים קלקל מאי תקנתיה ירבה בישיבה שנאמר (קהלת י, י) וחילים יגבר ויתרון הכשיר חכמה כ"ש אם משנתו סדורה לו מעיקרא כי הא דריש לקיש הוה מסדר מתני' ארבעין זמנין כנגד מ' יום שניתנה תורה ועייל לקמיה דר' יוחנן.

Rabbi Ami said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “If the iron is blunt, and does not whet the edge” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)? If you see a sky that is blunt as iron, in that it does not bring down dew and rain, this is due to the deeds of the generation, which are corrupt, as it is stated: “And does not whet [kilkal] the edge [panim].” Panim, which also means face, is often used in reference to the leaders of a generation, while the term kilkal is similar to the word for corrupt, mekulkalin. What is their remedy? They must increase their prayers for mercy, as it is stated in the same verse: “Then must he increase his strength, but wisdom is profitable to direct” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). This verse hints that rain will fall if one increases his strength, i.e., his prayers for mercy. The last part of the verse means that, all the more so, if their deeds had been righteous and direct from the beginning, the rains would not have been withheld.

The Gemara cites a different interpretation of the same verse. Reish Lakish said: If you see a student whose studies are hard as iron for him, i.e., difficult to understand, this is due to his lack of familiarity with the Mishna, which is not organized for him. If the Mishna is unclear, any further study of Gemara is rendered all the more difficult, as it is stated: “And does not whet [kilkal] the edge [panim]” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). As panim can also mean surface, this indicates that the surface, i.e., the basic statements of the Mishna, is corrupted. As stated previously, kilkal can also mean corrupted. What is his remedy? He must increase the time he sits and studies, as it is stated: “Then must he increase his strength” (Ecclesiastes 10:10). The last part of the verse: “But wisdom is profitable to direct,” means that all the more so, if his study of the Mishna is organized for him from the beginning, he will avoid this trouble. That is like this practice of Reish Lakish, who would review his studies forty times, corresponding to the forty days in which the Torah was given to Moses at Sinai, and only afterward would he go before Rabbi Yoḥanan to study from his teacher. Similarly, Rav Adda bar Ahava would review his learning twenty-four times, corresponding to the twenty-four books in the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, i.e., the Bible, and only afterward go before Rava to study with him.