Did Moshe Rabbeinu Set Homework? Part 5 | Rabbi Dovid Abenson

Weekly written tests put tremendous pressure on the students. They do not bring out the love and the sweetness of the Torah, rather build dread and resentment. The correct approach is to test students orally. This allows the rebbi to ensure that the student can read, translate defined terms well and express himself clearly. Written tests afford very little interaction with the rebbi. They may be more efficient but far less effective in achieving the true chinuch goals. It should be noted that this oral testing of skills is not the same as a “farher”, which could simply be prepared and memorized.

The rebbi must be sensitive to the unique educational needs of each student. The Gemara famously relates the story of Rabbi Preida. A certain student needed Rabbi Preida to teach him the material four hundred times before he would be capable of understanding it. One day during his learning session with this student, Rabbi Preida was summoned for a mitzvah matter that he would need to attend right after the lesson. Rabbi Preida taught his student four hundred times as usual, but this time the student did not successfully learn the material.

Rabbi Preida asked his student what was wrong. The student replied that he hadn’t been able to focus on the lesson for fear the rebbi would leave any moment. Rabbi Preida reassured the student that he would not leave until the lesson was understood and proceeded to teach him an additional four hundred times. For this, he received a tremendous reward.

Rabbi Preida’s story illustrates how much patience a rebbi must have for his students to go over the material again and again until each student understands. We should note that Rabbi Preida did not put the onus on the student to study extra at home, nor did he speak to his parents that they should pay for a tutor, give him medications or therapy. Nor did he throw him out of the yeshiva telling the parents “he does not meet the standards of Our Institution”. He took full responsibility for the student’s learning difficulties. Educators should follow his example, working hard to make sure that students know the material properly. If the rebbi finds this task impossible he should seek help, advice, or further training.

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Rabbi Dovid Abenson can be contacted at: Tel. 15147393629, Cell/Whatsapp 15149935300, Email: [email protected].

Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director of ShaarHatalmud, a unique yeshivah-based online program, which incorporates learning all Kodesh subjects, from Kriah up to learning Gemara, Rishonim, and Shulchan Aruch. He also conducts evaluations, remediation, and training, and consults with Roshei HaYeshiva and Menahelim to improve students’ underdeveloped learning and textual skills.

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