Monday, February 04, 2019

story time

In Sivan Rahav-Meir's parsha shiur last week she noted how until Parshas Mishpatim, the Torah is a book of stories -- narrative, not law.  Parshas Mishpatim changes all that.   She then related how her little daughter learned the parsha in school.  The teacher discussed with the class what would happen if one child borrowed a sweater from another child: what are the responsibilities of the borrower, what should be done if something happens to the sweater, etc.  Sivan Rahav-Meir commented that she thought this showed the genius of the gannenet.  Instead of teaching laws -- not very appealing to 5 year olds -- the teacher turned Mishpatim into more stories.  The parsha of shomrim thus became the story of a borrowed sweater. 

Sivan then remarked that this works great for little kids, but we adults don't approach the parsha in the same way.  For us, there is that great shift from stories to halacha.

On this point, I beg to differ.  We never outgrow stories, and Chazal know it!  There is no Mishna, for example, that talks about "mammon ha'mutal b'safeik" in the abstract, the way a law book might present it, the way a lamdan discusses the theoretical foundation.  Instead we have a story: two people are holding a talis, each one says the talis is mine, etc.  Maybe our brains are naturally wired to absorb stories; maybe there is some other explanation as to why Chazal present it in this way. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Berachot, Mishna 1:1 ...Rabban Gamliel's sons came from a house of feasting

    but Koheles 7:2 recommends a house of mourning, where the prospect of death may be taken to heart;

    they said to him, 'we have not recited shema'

    the shema, whose words (including the prospect of death, u'v'chol nafshecha) are to be taken to heart, al levavechah;

    he said to them ('if dawn has not broken, you must')

    fulfilling the command, v'shinantam l'banecha

    ...the anecdote acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the branching brainways of the student, despite his persistent efforts to pick a reluctant cuticle throughout the morning seder