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by Joel Rich

Celebrating the Launch of the YU Torah App

Talmud Torah in the 21st Century

Sunday, March 3, 2019

9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

This program was a kickoff for the new YUTORAH app.  Interesting that the panel was made up of content providers and no users as it might have been interesting for YUTORAH and providers to learn how their “product” is viewed/used in the free floating democracy of the internet.

The question not asked–The internet drowns us in information while starving us for knowledge.  How can YUTORAH help users address this dilemma?

Keynote Speaker: Rav Hershel Schachter on “The History and Development of Talmud Torah”

Two main points:

1.) R’Moshe held that the mitzvah of talmud torah requires one to strive for the maximum result so Rabbeim must utilize YU TORAH effectively (i.e., aim for zero defects on the first shot, record everything

2.) The classic Lita focus on lomdus doesn’t make up the majority of shiurim which are halachically focused (IIUC R’HS thinks this a good thing).

Panel discussion with:

  • Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz – Senior Magid Shiur at Lander’s College for Men, and Fall 2019 Incoming Director of RIETS semikhah
  • Mrs. Chaya Batya Neugroschl – Head of School, YU High School for Girls
  • Rabbi Shay Schachter – Rosh Bais Medrash, Young Israel of Woodmere
  • Rabbi Moshe Tzvi Weinberg – Rebbe and Mashgiach Ruchani, Stone Beit Midrash Program, and Mashpia, Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, New Jersey

  • Is the mini shiur (5 – 10 minute format) trend a positive one?  Yes, in the proper context recognizing current lifestyles. [Me – (i) some blame Sesame Street but attention spans seem to have gotten shorter (ii) I avoid those shiurim with 2 exceptions because I feel they generally leave the listener thinking they know more than they really do – it’s sort of the Maharshal’s issue with halachic codes (iii) There is a Type I/Type II error dilemma–how many people capable of more will settle for the Cliff Notes? (iv) maybe we need to address current lifestyle issues?)
  • What about the student/rebbi relationship?  The technology can extend relationships and allow for new ones; the student/rebbi relationship is key. [Me – (i) to the extent some teachers lecture with little student interaction, listening online is very effective (ii) There are a limited number of hours – even teachers who have the desire lack the time to have multiple deep interchange with online students (note one speaker’s comment on R’HS saying “I don’t know”) (iii) Think about the impact on the pulpit Rabbi who has a laity listening to all these shiurim and expect him to be up to date on all of the issues/opinions]
  • How should schools integrate technology in Torah education?  Use it effectively (not just to make it easy), recognizing changes in demographics and technology yet maintain the best of “old world” (e.g., Rebbi/Talmid relationship) [Me – it’s a work in progress but I urge those in the trenches  (really those administrators) to remember Rich’s rule of education–if we don’t provide role models who can communicate a love of learning (and associated avodat Hashem), we are in deep trouble.]
  • How has online torah changed how people seek halachic guidance?  The plethora of information available is valuable to both Rabbis and laity (especially women) but doesn’t replace a poseik.  There’s a big difference between knowledge and psak (which is its own complex process). [Me – (i) all true, but I suspect a lot of shailot do not get asked due to the availability of online resources. (ii) Some of that may be good but it requires a knowledge base, intellectual honesty, and some method of identifying blind spots (iii) I think it further undercuts the LOR (e.g., the trend to ch’ul folks holding one day in aretz)

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent local lecturer on various Torah topics in West Orange, NJ and supports his Torah listening habits by working as a consulting actuary.

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