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From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel) Date: Tue, 20 May 1997 20:01:31 -0400 Subject: Textual Vs Hands On Learning I would like to thank Stan Tenen for bringing up the issue of how we learn(Vol 26n55) Allow me to make two small points. 1) A beautiful textual support for Stan's thesis that "textual learning without hands on experience is of inferior quality" is in fact one of the themes of Rambams introduction to his mishnaic commentary on the order of "Holy Things(ie Sacrifices)". In fact the Rambam remarkably and explicitly states what Stan says: ..But today we have no temple PRACTICE. And therefore even the greatest scholars and the heads of Yeshivas are deficient in understanding of Talmudic passages on sacrifices because there are no hands on experience to reinforce the texts." 2) I think Stan's statement: >> not even Moshe (Rabaynu) if he lived today could remember it all>> is a little harsh. First of all the Talmud explicitly states that Moses saw every novelty of every student in Jewish History. But I would like to use a different angle: Namely besides TEXTUAL and HANDS ON EXPERIENCE there is a third approach to learning: CONCEPTUAL LEARNING. Let me give an analogy from mathematics: A student who knows how to derive formulae is obviously better able to memorize them then a person who just memorizes them. Furthermore, the CONCEPTUAL learner will RETAIN the information longer. Throughout Jewish History pure textual learning of laws and regulations (Mishnah) has always been accompanied by the ability to conceptually derive these laws from underlying or unifying principles (Talmud: See e.g. Rambam: Laws of Learning: 1:11) In conclusion I believe Moses would be able to "remember it all" today---but I don't believe that Moshe Rabaynu had a better memory than me or Stan---rather I believe that he had a better conceptual framework by which to derive and understand laws. I think hands on experience is important for the continuity of Jewish Learning. But I also think that the intensive learning of Midrash Halachah (the derivation of legal minutae from Biblical nuances is equally important) I hope that what Stan and I have said increases peoples ability to learn and retain. Russell Jay Hendel; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu