Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tzav- Learning Styles


Tzav et b’nei Yisrael v’yik’hu eilekha shemen zayit zakh katit lamaor l’ha’a lot ner tamid…. V’lakachta solet v’afita otah shteim esreih challot…. V’samta otam shtayim maarakhot sheish hamaarakhet al-hashulchan hatahor lifnei Adonai. V’natata al-hamaarekhet l’vonah zakah vhaytah lalechem l’azkarah isheh lAdonai. B’yom haShabbat b’yom haShabbat yaarkhenu lifnei Adonai tamid mei’eit b’nei-Yisrael brit olam.
Command the children of Israel that they will bring to you pure olive oil beaten for a lamp, an eternal light…. And you will take fine flour, and bake it into 12 loaves…. And you will place them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure table before Adonai. And you will put pure frankincense with each row, to be a memorial to the bread, an offering to Adonai. Every Shabbat day he shall set it out before Adonai, always, it is, for the children of Israel, an everlasting covenant. (Vayikra 24:2, 5-8)
In current educational theory, the best lesson plans use multiple modalities or intelligences. This means they involve students through different learning methods. Not every student responds to frontal, linguistic learning such as lecturing. To be effective, a lesson must interact with students through their best abilities. Rituals provide us with our lessons. And, they already knew what educational theory would take 5000 years to promulgate. Rituals use multiple intelligences.
There are seven identified educational intelligences:
Linguistic: language- lecture, choral reading, discussion, journaling and story telling
Logical-Mathematical: logic and rational thinking- problem solving, experiments, number games and critical thinking
Spatial-Visual: seeing and imagining- visual presentation, art and metaphor
Bodily-Kinesthetic: movement and touch- tactile or hands-on activities, dance and drama
Musical: rhythm and music- rapping or songs that teach
Interpersonal: social contact- community involvement and social gathering
Intrapersonal: on one’s own- individualized instruction or independent study
Ritual involves all these. Just examining Shabbat, our eternal covenant, we begin and end with physical activity that uses the senses through the lighting of the candles, reminiscent of the ner tamid, and the smell of Shabbat meals or the havdalah spices. We sing the brachot. We gather as families and communally for t’fillot and meals. Our t’fillot alone incorporate all seven intelligences- choral readings, movement, the story telling and drama of the Torah and Haftarah readings and both inter- and intrapersonal learning through private and communal prayer. Even the choreography of the service and of Shabbat meals fulfills both spatial-visual and bodily-kinesthetic learning. One may even include logical-mathematical learning through text study. These activities envelope the Shabbat experience and beyond in all aspects of Jewish ritual life.
The best way to teach Judaism is through mitzvot and ritual. Only in this way do we involve all our senses, all our intelligences. Only in this way do we ensure full absorption of our lessons, our ethics and our ideals. It’s not enough to tell our children and grandchildren to be Jewish. We need to live it with them, and the best places to do that are at the shul and around our tables.