Ou-là-là! A Midterm is Coming Up…

The guidelines for the upcoming Midterm Examination (Week 9) will be discussed in class next Wednesday, October 22nd. As it is often the case in this class, this examination will also provide us with a chance to explore collaborative processes, and to test out how the #digitalhumanities may serve our learning goals.

In this case, we are going to explore a consolidated format of Jewish collaborative learning practice, the chavruta.

Derived from the Aramaic for “friendship,” this term (which on Wikipedia you can find under the Ashkenazi pronunciation of the word, chavrusa) indicates the teams of two students learning together inside a Talmudic Academy, or yeshivah (link is to the EJ, with UCB-only access). Each partner in a chavruta is supposed to challenge the other’s views, thus expanding knowledge in an eminently collaborative form.

Carteret beis medrash.jpg

Study partners sit opposite each other or side by side at the Yeshiva Gedola of Carteret (image licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.).

Who will be your chavruta? (Note, you cannot “choose” your partner beforehand: selection criteria will be announced on the day of the examination…).

As the Ethics of the Fathers (pirqe avot) remind us:

Yehoshua ben Perachia says: Make for yourself a teacher [“rav”], acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person as meritorious.

Or, as the Babylonian Talmud puts it (at least in the translation linked here):

How may one explain the verse, “A sword is upon the boasters and they shall become fools” (Jeremiah 50:36)? A sword is upon scholars who sit alone to study the Torah. And not only this, but they also become stupid, as it is written here, “and they shall become fools”….

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