by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
I hope you can remember me. I'm Jung, producer of KBS (Korean Broadcasting System) who interviewed with you in Jerusalem two years ago. Everything be fine with you.
I'm writing this to ask a question related to Jewish culture. Now we're making a documentary about 'learning styles' from different cultures across the globe, and got interested in Jewish learning style or studying style, which is well known to put emphasis on discussion and questioning, and we'd like to describe the way Jewish people studied and learned more than two thousand years ago. Hopefully, I'm not bothering you so much, and please excuse me for a few questions. Could you answer my question?
Does the fact that Jewish people are famous for good discussion have any relevance to their religion-Judaism? If so, why do you think Judaism puts more emphasis on questioning and discussion, compared to Christianity? I know Talmud study is based on good discussion...is it the same case with Torah study?
Historically looking back, since when do you think Jewish people lay stress on discussion? Do you know about things like relics, sites or evidence that shows learning style of ancient Jew thousands years ago?
With all due modesty, the statistics show that one out of 516 people in the world is Jewish, yet one out of four Noble Prize winners is Jewish. G-d has blessed the Jewish people with ample intelligence, and good discussion comes from good intelligence.
Torah is learned by discussion. From the beginning, the Torah was given to the Jewish people both as a written Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and an Oral Torah (Talmud). Both were given to the Jewish people via Moses on Mt Sinai. Both aspects of the Torah are studied with “good discussion.” The Sages taught that “I have learned the most from my students.”[i] This means that as the teacher must reach deeper and deeper to answer the students’ questions, he gains greater and greater understanding.
From the very beginning when the Torah was given to the Jewish people, and still, to this day, the Torah has been given over with such discussion. We are told many times in the Written Torah to tell these words to our children, to discuss them. We are told to be prepared and know what to answer the dissenters. These discussions are likened to sharpening swords one against another.
Christianity is based on belief. They are taught never to question their beliefs, while Jews are taught to demand explanations.
Today’s Jewish people are the “relics” of thousands of years of Torah study, and the yeshivas (study halls) all over the world, wherever Jews live, are the sites. The Jews who leave the Torah’s ways invariably intermarry with neighboring non-Jews, and their descendants are no longer Jews. The Jews who learn, and who follow their Torah studies, raise large Jewish families. The many descendants of the religious Jews are the proof of the Torah’s value.
I hope that these quick answers have answered some of your questions.
Old City, Jerusalem
[i] R’ Chanina said, "I have learned much from my teachers, and from colleagues more than from my teachers, but from my students more than from them all.” Ta'anis 7a One quality to acquire Torah is to “increase the wisdom of your teacher.” Pirke Avot 6:6