An integral part of the Judaic Studies curriculum at MJGDS is the study of the TANACH (Bible) because it is the source of the spiritual history, literature and values of our people. It is the foundation of our Jewish civilization and the source of the ethical and ritual MITZVOT (commandments), which have been central to Jewish life throughout the ages. It is the record of what the Jewish people have understood as the basis and meaning of the covenant between God and the Jewish people.
We teach both the simple, literal understanding of the text as written (pshat) and the interpretive understandings of the text (drash) at appropriate grade levels, always maintaining the distinction between the two. While both are integral to the study of Torah, we distinguish between them when teaching Torah to our students.
Text learned in 6th grade: JOSHUA
Text learned in 7th grade: “SHMOT”, “SHMUEL”
Text learned in 8th grade: “BAMIDBAR”, “MELACHIM”
Traditionally, Jewish learning centers about the study of the literature of the Oral Tradition, including the Mishna, the Talmud and the Midrash. The first and most critical step in the study of the literature of the Oral Tradition is the study of Mishna. The Torah presents general concepts and Jewish legal (halachic) frameworks, but rarely provides specific definitions or halachic detail. This is the role of the Torah Sheb’al Peh. Appreciation of the role – the “value added” of the Torah Sheb’al Peh begins with the recognition that critical information is “missing” from the Mikra. The Mishna becomes the explanation of the Mikra – the Torah She b’chtav.
Traditional Jewish study may conjure up ideas of sitting with a book and reading with a study partner (hevrutah). While this is important and creates a special bond and interaction between students, nowadays classroom learning can appeal to different types of learners.
The V’shinantam Mishna curriculum of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School Middle School engenders both of these ideals while focusing on the processes, concepts, and skills essential to the further transmission of the Oral Tradition. These skills are taught with full color student materials and instructional aids which respect multiple intelligences and the need for heterogeneous instruction.
In each grade, students strengthen their Hebrew reading, comprehension and analytical skills using the text in traditional volumes of Mishna as well as innovative classroom activities. Through memorization, creative writing and role-playing as well as use of new media students are able to make Mishna come alive and add one more stage to the Chain of Tradition.