Never Despair in Your Torah Studies, by Rabbi Dovid Abenson

rabbi dovid abensonby Rabbi Dovid Abenson. The Zobin Method is a screening and reading remediation system developed by Rabbi Zvi Zobin to meet the high levels of reading and understanding texts written in classical Hebrew, which are written tersely and without vowels, thus requiring the reader to have ample brain-power available for interpreting the text and also an extensive lexicon of words.

The screening comprises three aspects: Firstly, it provides an analysis of reading skills, from recognizing letters and vowels, through blending, to reading a difficult new text. The analysis is based on classic data-processing principles and determines the reader’s strengths and weaknesses. It also serves as a benchmark for measuring the success of consequent remediation. Secondly, the screening assesses the reader’s unique educational parameters which determine his requirements for skillful learning ‘his way.’ Thirdly, it uncovers side issues which might be hampering his ability to read and absorb information.

The remediation is based on classic skill-enhancement programs, speedily enhancing character-recognition and text-reading fluency. By presenting reading as a challenging sport, the program harnesses the reader’s own competitive drive for success to effect rapid improvements in reading efficiency. Remediation schedules are based on the reader’s own educational profile, ensuring that goals are both attainable and meet the reader’s requirements for success.

Effortless reading, especially in lashon hakodesh, is necessary to enable a reader to focus his attention on understanding, remembering, appreciating and enjoying what he is reading.

If you want to instantly and effortlessly recognize a whole word together with its pronunciation and meaning, then you need to have a large memory-bank of whole words. You also need a large memory-bank of whole words to make it easy for you to read a text that is not vowelized (nikud). Without a large memory-bank of whole words, you will need to try to work out how to pronounce each word by working through the various permutations of possible vowelization – which is a long and unpleasant process.

The laws that govern the pronunciation of Hebrew are consistent in all cases. Therefore there is no concept of a reading-age in reading Hebrew. Once a child has learnt how to read, he should be able to read as well as an adult.

Hebrew letters and vowels are much more complex than Western languages Also, when you read a Hebrew word you need to look at it five times:
1.to determine the identity of each and every letter and vowel.
2.to combine the letters and vowels to form a word.
3.to isolate the root letters to the word
4.to re-analyze the word to determine the identity of prefixes, middle fixes and suffixes
5.to re-combine the letters to determine the exact meaning of the word.

Therefore, your reading needs to be always totally accurate. A small mistake can cause a major mistake since a regular word of Hebrew contains much more information than a word of English and sometimes one word of Hebrew can be a whole sentence in English.

As a result of all these differences, you need to have a far higher level of visual/ recognition/ processing skills than you need for reading and understanding English. Therefore levels of skills which are considered sufficient for reading English might not be sufficient for reading and understanding Hebrew.

i. If the Screening shows that a reader needs to improve in a basic field, such as vision skills, multitasking, visual integration or imaging it is usually better to attend to the needs of that, before improving the reading.

ii. If the reading skills are very poor it might be advisable to commence a schedule of reading improvements immediately, while attending to the other needs at the same time.

iii. If it is not possible to attend to the other needs (e.g. because there is no one available to deal with them), it is still advisable to commence a schedule of reading improvements to enable the reader to take advantage of whatever skills he does have and perhaps to learn to compensate for what he is missing.

iv. If the reader is now reading in a stressful way and/or if he is reading in syllables, it is usually advisable to commence a schedule of reading improvements to improve these aspects.

A right-brain dominant person needs to attain a high level of reading efficiency because his natural tendency is not to pay attention to details. Therefore if his reading is not easy, he will shy away from reading and relating to the words.

A super-fast person needs to attain a far higher level of efficiency than a regular reader. The effect of a convergence deficiency is to put stress into the reading process because the brain is continually trying to force the eyes to work together to produce a single fused image from the two images formed by each eye. If the brain is not successful, then in addition to the stress, the reader will suffer further because he will see a double, super-imposed image.

The effect of poor ocular motility is to put stress into the reading process because the reader finds it difficult to swivel his eyeballs. Likewise a person whose refocusing is stressful will find looking up at the teacher and then back at his book and then at the board very distracting.

The regular classroom is a multi-tasking situation since the pupil needs to listen to the teacher, look at his book, look at the board, think his own thoughts, and there will be noises from other sources to deal with. Therefore someone who has poor multi-tasking abilities will become overwhelmed by a regular classroom situation.

In order for a person to be able to harness his power of imagination, he needs to be able to control and consciously access the imagination. Poor imaging and Geo-rotation show that the reader is not trained in this important skill, to appreciate its practical consequences and easily enjoy the vividness of a text. It will also make it more difficult for the reader to comprehend and remember what he is reading and to build a picture of the structure of a logical argument (as when learning Gemora).

Once a reader’s deficiencies are assessed and recognized, remediation succeeds with the Zobin Method much more quickly than with other methods that do not take these underlying causes into consideration. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty with reading Lashon Hakodesh and Gemora, know that expert help with fast results is available in your community.

I would like illustrate the above with some of the many true stories I have received, from ages 6 to 80 years old. This is how we can bring love of Torah to those Yidden who do not have it. So never despair in Torah study; you can always upgrade yourself.

• • •

The following is a letter from a satisfied client who completed the “Zobin Method” Gemora course in just three sessions:

“For some years now I have been struggling with the basics of learning Gemora. As a late starter, grappling with Gemora is a tiresome task. There are many late starters around but there is very little real help available to develop the technique of learning Gemora.

Let me explain what it is like as an inexperienced learner of Gemora. We are, metaphorically, stuck in the woods. Wherever we turn there is a new tree blocking our path to understanding. We struggle from one difficult and obscure phrase to the next, slowly picking up phrases, vocabulary and technique, but the basic problem remains as to how to put the whole lot together. Now, as your readers will know, there is a lot of symmetry and repetition in Gemora, which is an aid to understanding, but a vast amount of this is lost on us. We are working so hard translating and understanding the words that we hardly notice the patterns – which are very often the key to being able to decipher Gemora. The adept teacher and most people with a solid Yeshiva background will scan the Gemora and pick out the key phrases and ideas. But the “learner” cannot scan, he has only been taught to stumble from phrase to phrase.

Until only a few weeks ago I was in that exact situation, hardly being able to learn a line of Gemora unless I had a Rebbe or at least an Artscroll translation next to me. This is after having been learning Gemora for over ten years and having spent on average three to four hours learning a day for the past six years.

However, recently a change has occurred. So much so that during the recent winter break I was able to learn alone for four hours straight in the morning followed by a similar afternoon seder, with only occasional checking with my chavrusa that I was on track. Additionally, last week I learned half an omud of Gemora, alone, with no external input at all, in under an hour. This is phenomenal progress for me. What I am trying to point out here is not the level of learning but rather that the development is astonishing. What’s the secret? It’s a technique that has been around for years and is even mentioned in the Gemora Shabbos, but it is very little used and certainly very little taught. However there is an educator, Rabbi Zobin by name, who has realized the way the mind works and how it needs to gather a vast amount of information in order to analyze and make informed guesses as to the content of the subject at hand. His approach is in stark contrast to the usual method of learning as is commonly taught by rebbeim which does not allow the mind free reign to use its astounding faculties of analysis.

There is a gifted teacher in Manchester (Montreal), Reb Dovid Abenson, who has seen the value of this approach and is promoting the work of Rabbi Zobin. The technique is so easy to acquire with the right input, that very few actual lessons are required to master it, and with it the springboard to great achievement. In fact, I had only one diagnostic session followed by two training sessions before Reb Dovid said that I needn’t come back, as all I now needed was practice. And he was right!

So may I encourage your readers who are involved with those experiencing difficulties in learning Gemora, whether talmidim who are struggling, rebbeim who need a new approach, or Yeshivas who are finding that some of their talmidim are just not getting it, to be in touch with Rabbi Abenson. This approach of Rabbi Zobin is beyond all expectation.

Yours truly

A.R.”

• • •

A woman came to me about her 18 year old nephew who was kicked out of Yeshiva, was struggling with his learning, reading and social skills, and was very withdrawn. And here is what she recently wrote:

“I was amazed at Rabbi Abenson’s professional approach and his techniques which were able to transform my nephew, not only in his approach to his learning, but he became an extrovert who loved being around people. In fact, Rabbi Abenson initially has been the only person who has been able to get through to him. The happy ending is that he recently became engaged and I have much hakoros hatov to Rabbi Abenson that without his assistance he would not have gotten engaged.”

• • •

The following is another story from an 18-year-old bochur:

“When I first started yeshiva, my Gemora, Chumash, Rashi and Hebrew reading were poor. I was struggling with my chavrusas and finding it a challenge to understand shiur, even though I was putting in all my effort. My Gemora skills were not strong enough for me to learn by myself and I felt that, although an Artscroll would help me to understand what I was learning, it would not help in the long run. No private rebbe was able to help, as the problem was not my ability to understand a piece of Gemora, it was my lack of the basic vocabulary and techniques in learning and this why they were unable to teach me. After a while I was introduced to Rabbi Abenson who guaranteed that he would “guide me to reach my full learning potential using his widely acclaimed individual program… that would accurately diagnose the causes of the barrier and effectively remove them.” It sounded too good to be true, however I decided to try it out. We started right from the beginning and slowly made our way through the vital skills needed to learn posukim, mishnayos and finally Gemora. Instantly I could see my level of learning increase and my vocabulary broaden. For one hour a day, five times a week, I learned with Rabbi Abenson until after six weeks we had achieved what nine years of primary school and six years of secondary school had failed to accomplish.

Thanks to Rabbi Abenson I now enjoy learning with my chavrusas, and shiurim became much easier to comprehend. My yeshiva life has been turned around and will hopefully continue to grow.”

• • •

Here is another story:

“I am a 68-year-old frum man who studied in traditional yeshivos in America all my life and accumulated quite a bit of Torah knowledge. However, I always had difficulties with my Hebrew reading, even in regular davening, which caused translation difficulties, which created real problems when trying to learn any Hebrew text and especially Gemara on my own. I always had to have a Rebbe to teach me or an English translation. I could never understand why, as I was very competent in English. In fact, in English, I can read over 500 words per minute with excellent comprehension! I happened to read a Mishpacha magazine article regarding the work of Rabbi Dovid Abenson where he stated he “upgrades all levels of learners in their ability to read Hebrew.” The methodology seemed sound so I thought I would try seeing if, and how, he could help me. I was amazed with the diagnostic results of the evaluation he gave me, and after just a few sessions of the reading program, I noted a real improvement in my ability to read Hebrew! He also showed me an approach to Gemara learning which, while requiring real work, provides a real path to competence in Gemara learning. I certainly wish I had had this opportunity when I started my schooling; but better late than never.

Thank you Rabbi Abenson for opening my eyes to a better approach to reading and understanding Hebrew.”

• • •

The following is a letter from the parent of an 11-year-old child”

“I want to give you an update. I was doing kriah with my Shmiel the other night (something I am embarrassed to say I have not been able to do with him in a while) and he read so beautifully!! He read clearly and quickly too! I asked him what happened? He laughed and answered that he followed your instructions. He said whenever he felt he was stumbling he would slow down and read more carefully until he familiarized himself with the words. I was quite impressed. Now I need him to slow down and imagine the commas and periods in the Gemarah, he just jumbles it all together. But his Rebbi said this too will come with time. So I just wanted to say THANK YOU!”

• • •

I would like to quote just one excerpt from the next story about a 6-year-old boy (the full version of the letter can be found at www.wherewhatwhen.com):

“…..At his first encounter with the program, my son didn’t even want to try. Now, when Rabbi Abenson shows my son a pasuk and asks in his British accent, “Sholom Ber, Can you read this?” the answer is, “Easy peazy!””

• • •

And my most recent amazing story is with a rebbi close to 80 years old who was present during my session with his grandson. During the second session he humbly asked me in front of his grandson to be upgraded in the Gemara program; he has been teaching for many years in Australia and elsewhere and he learnt in Gateshead Yeshiva in 1934. He told me he always felt he was missing skills in his learning especially in Gemara, and when he saw me working with his grandson he felt this is also what he was missing when he was younger.

• • •

These stories illustrate that we must bring the teaching of the Torah as Chazal has clearly directed us to. We have to teach our children to be happy in Torah and religion – that Torah is the only real source of happiness and sense of true fulfillment.

Regarding schools and institutions, they must teach with love and simcha. Torah should be taught in the students’ mother tongue and should be textual based and with Jewish hashkafa which is truly missing. Each child should be taught methodically and with full clarity and not using yeshivish language unless definitions are given so that when the student leaves the classroom, he fully understands what was taught that day.

Rabbi Abenson is the founder and director, Author and lecturer of Shaar Hatalmud, a unique yeshiva based online program, featuring evaluations and upgrading of skills in Hebrew reading, Gemara studies, consulting school principals world-wide to improve their ability to discover students who possess under-developed skills. He can be reached at [email protected] or 1-877-HATALMUD (428 2568)

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I have worked with David for a few years now and one thing you can say about him is that he says it as it is. He is not afraid to speak up when it comes to protecting children. Keep up the great work.

  2. HaShem has created difficult circumstances for many neshamos to overcome in this world. Thank you Rav Abenson for educating public about this and helping such people. G-d willing I will use your services because my childhood education was ruined.

  3. At the levayah of Rabb Osher Zelig Rubenstein z”l last night at his Yeshiva “Toras Simchah” in Jerusalem, on of the Maspidim quoted him as saying that all the brochos given to someone who learns Torah only apply if he learns the Torah with simcha – if he really enjoys the learning. They do not apply to someone who only learns torah because it is a mitzva – something he is obliged to do.

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