Inspiration from Pesach seder

Hope everyone had a nice Pesach and is now back in the swing of things.

The Pesach seder is the ultimate teaching and learning experience. The approach is to first arouse the children’s curiosity (why do we dip the vegetable into salt water? so that you’ll ask, of course), then make the experience personal (if G-d hadn’t redeemed us we would have still been slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt), and then tell the story of our birth as a nation (come and learn). When conducted properly the Pesach seder is an unforgettable lesson for any child.

As parents and teachers, we strive to create powerful learning experiences the rest of the year. May the Pesach inspiration stay with us and help us make Torah learning come alive for our children and students!

Coming soon: Torah through Literature Guide and Book List! G-d willing, it will be posted on the website, torahthroughliterature.com, later this week. Have a great week!

Book recommendation: Dual Discovery

Here’s an example of a “living book” relevant for this time of the year: Dual Discovery by Zecharya Hoffman. My kids and I took turns reading it over Pesach last year, and we had some interesting discussions. This is a novel set in Egypt, during the exodus. The readers get to observe, through the eyes of the characters, the life of Jewish slaves, the ten plagues in vivid detail, and the Torah learning of the Levites. The familiar story truly comes to life.

Word of caution: the descriptions of the ten plagues are rather vivid, so it might be too scary for young or especially sensitive children.

G-d willing I’ll be posting book recommendations at least twice a month after Pesach. Spread the word to any friends who might be interested.

Why teach Torah through literature?

I can’t claim that teaching Torah through literature is a Torah idea. Perhaps it’s not even a Torah ideal. Perhaps ideally all Jews should be learning Torah directly from the Tanach, Mishna, and Gemara. But desperate times require desperate measures. And one thing I am sure of is that literature-based curriculum works!

Ever since I began homeschooling my children almost eight years ago I’ve spent quite a bit of time exploring whatever homeschooling curriculum was available for any subject. When I looked for homeschooling limmudei kodesh curriculum I found… none. We’ve settled for Torah Umesorah materials, originally intended for classroom use, along with many many good Jewish books which have made our learning exciting and fun.

For secular studies, however, there is an abundance of curriculum out there. But a lot of it is not quite secular. Many serious, committed homeschoolers are deeply religious Christians who would not send their children to public schools for reasons similar to ours. And these creative parents have produced amazing learning materials that inspire and educate their families.

Recently, some of these materials have been “secularized” and adopted for the use of secular homeschoolers. I’ve used a number of their ideas and books over the years. The approach that appeals to me and my family the most is literature-based curriculum, where well written, engaging books are used to teach pretty much every subject under the sun. This year, we’ve used a literature-based curriculum for math, science, and history. My kids love it and look forward to learning.

Which brings me to teaching Torah through literature. Why should our children find secular studies more exciting and engaging than Torah studies? And why should we settle for “secular” curriculum when we are religious Jews with religious values which we hold close to our hearts?

My vision is to create a literature-based curriculum for limmudei kodesh, as well as a secular studies curriculum infused with Jewish values.

As it turns out, I’m not the first religious Jew to use this approach. In the 19th century Germany, when many Jewish youths were losing their connection to the Torah, some learned rabbis made a valiant attempt to rescue the youth by writing engaging, well-written books saturated with Jewish values. Among them were Rabbi Meir Lehmann and Rabbi Zelig Shachnowitz.

Times have not changed for the better. Today, many forces fight for our children’s attention. It is more important than ever to provide materials which make Torah alive and relevant for them.

So that’s why I began this blog. I’m hoping that it will become a place where anyone involved in Jewish education, whether at home or in a school setting, can exchange ideas and book recommendations. And the creative souls among us can create our own curriculum and get it posted and reviewed here. IY”H I’ll post more about our learning journey and the books we’ve been enjoying.

Comments, feedback, and suggestions are very much welcome!

Welcome!

Welcome to Torah through Literature!

Hope you find this site helpful. More info coming soon, IY”H.

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