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Noach

on Thursday, October 3 2013. Posted by Rabbi Uri Pillichowski

The debate over whether education is about facilitating learning or supplying knowledge seems never ending. Each educator has their own opinion if their role in the classroom and their responsibility towards their students is to facilitate or supply. The well known axiom, give a man a fish, and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for life, applies well to this debate. A teacher who supplies information provides their students a limited amount of knowledge, but a teacher who facilitates learning, teaching their students how to amass knowledge on their own has given their students an infinite amount of knowledge.

This Dvar Torah will illustrate how in Sedrat Noach, both approaches to education are demonstrated. In this week’s sedra, Noach builds a large ship to provide refuge to the animals and his family during an impending flood meant to restart the world’s population. When the flood ends and the water subsides, Noach is instructed to resettle the land. It is within God’s command for Noach to exit the ship that two approaches to education are found. This Dvar Torah aims to clarify when it is appropriate for teachers to supply information and when it is best to facilitate learning.

As the waters subsided God instructed Noach, “Go out of the ship, you and your wife, and your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Every living thing that is with you of all flesh, of fowl, and of animals and of all the creeping things that creep on the earth, bring out with you, and they shall swarm upon the earth, and they shall be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.”

Our traditional text of the Torah includes the kere (the way the text is read) and ketiv (the way it is written) system, in which marginal notes indicate that certain words are to be read differently than they are spelled in the text, certain words in the text should not be read at all, or that certain words not in the text should be read in that spot.

The verse that commands Noach to “bring out all the animals” contains a classic Kere and Ketiv phrase. The word is written הוֹצֵא, but is read as הַיְצֵא. Rashi explains the different meanings of these two phrases. הַיְצֵא (the way the verse is read) means tell them that they should come out. הוֹצֵא (the way it is written) means: if they do not wish to come out, you take them out.

Rashi’s explanation fits perfectly into the debate over an educator’s role. The way the verse reads, that Noach should tell them they should come out, points to facilitated learning, where Noach guides them in the direction they should go. The way the verse is written, forcibly taking reluctant animals out, points to supplying information. In this approach it would seem facilitated learning is ideal, while in specific situations, supplying information is necessary.

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