How do teachers of lemudei kodesh (Judaic studies) and rebbeim decide on what to teach their students?

There are two criteria for secular studies regarding whether a particular subject should studied or taught in a given curriculum:

  1. Theoretical consideration: The subject should be a body of fundamental knowledge which is a prerequisite for the understanding of other subjects.

  2. Practical consideration: The subject should have a practical significance in the sense that its understanding would be useful in taking efficient decisions in some of the practical problems.

Obviously Torah study is different, but in particular how does Judaism (or longstanding Jewish practice) indicate that we should decide what is more important to teach and what is less important to teach in the world of Torah education?

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    Seems to possibly be about Jews not Judaism, too broad, and primarily opinion based. – mevaqesh Nov 2 '16 at 4:57
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    @mevaqesh, if Torah study isn't Judaism, what is? (Nor does it strike me as too broad. What could fully answer the secular-studies counterpart question fit into this question post nicely: likely, then, the Torah-studies one will fit nicely into an answer post.) As for opinion-based, you may be right; perhaps the question should ask what's traditionally or typically done rather than what "we" do. – msh210 Nov 2 '16 at 9:40
  • I have spoken to mechanchim and roshei yeshivos about this. You have left out one of the main deciding factors. Popular opinion of the mass culture they are catering to. Whether or not that opinion is based (supposedly) on any given community leader (i.e. Rabbi/Gadol) or not is irrelevant being that those leaders don't usually have direct control of what is being taught. – user6591 Nov 2 '16 at 13:56
  • @user6591 I am unsure that much of this is based on popular opinion. I gather that there are various yeshiva methodologies Brisk vs. others. Yes, much of what goes into the curriculum is probably based on demographics rather than "opinion". E.g. - Williamsburg, NY Hassidish yeshivot teach much more Torah and Gemarah and in Yiddish vs. North Shore Yeshiva in Long Island which teaches significantly less Gemarah and is done largely in English. They have very different student populations. – DanF Nov 2 '16 at 16:03
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    This question seems pretty parallel to all of these "derech halimud" questions, just implicitly dealing with a different subset of institutions than any of those are. Perhaps specifying what that subset is would make this question conventionally equivalent to those. – WAF Nov 21 '16 at 14:44

I would think there is a 3rd consideration that exists by lemudei kodesh curriculum evaluation that does not exist by secular studies. This is the:

Responsive Consideration: does the curriculum stimulate problem solving ability and creative thinking.(In other words, do the students get a geshmack out of learning.)

I've spoken to a number of rebbeim (at the elementary and high school level) and they said that when designing a curriculum they conciser whether or not the student will enjoy the content or the way the content is being taught.

They also said they would make accommodations for an individual who is not enjoying what is being taught or even change what they are learning/way of learning if the class was not enjoying it.

Such a third consideration does not make sense by secular studies which are labour market driven/Socially required.

I would find it difficult to think that a calculus teacher would change to teaching trigonometry on the basis that the class does not enjoy the material. Even in the Arts and history teachers would not change what they are teaching if the class was not enjoying it let alone one student due to a standardised curriculum instituted by the government.

P.S If everyone can ask their local yeshiva rebbeim if they make consideration when designing a curriculum to confirm such a hunch that would be appreciated.

(sorry about lack of sources, this is just what I figured).

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    How does this answer: "how does Judaism (or longstanding Jewish practice) indicate that we should decide"? This seems to reinforce the perception that the question is about Jews not Judaism, and that the question is unclear. – mevaqesh Nov 30 '16 at 17:52
  • @mevaqesh that is why I originally deleted the question, but it got undeleted, so i decided to share my thoughts since it appeared that this question is relevant for the site. Also the question was edited. – EconJohn Nov 30 '16 at 17:59
  • How about deciding what exactly you are trying to ask, and then editing the question to reflect that. Are you asking what different sources say about how an educational regimen should be structured? About the history of different curricula among educators? About various popular programs today? || The former seems the most on topic. – mevaqesh Nov 30 '16 at 18:00
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    @mevaqesh the question reflects what i am trying to ask and im aware it is out of line with the sites requirements for questions. I have tried deleting it for the above reason but it got undeleted. so yes the question is about jews and not judaism, however i am unable to delete the question at this point. – EconJohn Nov 30 '16 at 18:06
  • Okay thank you for clarifying that. Do you see a delete button under the tags to your question? If not, you can flag for moderator help and explain that you realize that the question is off topic and are having trouble deleting it. – mevaqesh Nov 30 '16 at 18:09

Rabbi Nissan Kaplan explains in a lecture that the outlook of the litvish yeshivas such as the Mir yeshiva where he teaches is to focus mostly on talmud study. In one of his lectures, he brings a Rambam who says based on the talmud in kidushin 30a that one should divide his learning into 1/3 Mikra (presumably tanach), 1/3 mishna, and 1/3 Talmud, and after he has mastered the former two should devote almost all of his time to talmud only. He says in the lecture that since most people are in yeshiva for only a few years, they try to immerse them directly into mostly talmud bavli curriculum.

Here's a quote of Mishne Torah Talmud Torah 1 he brings.

אבל כשיגדיל בחכמה ולא יהא צריך לא ללמוד תורה שבכתב ולא לעסוק תמיד בתורה שבעל פה יקרא בעתים מזומנים תורה שבכתב ודברי השמועה כדי שלא ישכח דבר מדברי דיני תורה ויפנה כל ימיו לגמרא בלבד לפי רוחב שיש בלבו ויישוב דעתו

This is the outlook of almost all litvish yeshivas down to the first one in Volozhin though not necessarily from this Rambam (as evidenced from their devoting most of their time to talmud bavli study). Could be Rabbi Kaplan also is just using this rambam as a "hint" not as a main source for this outlook.

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    @mevaqesh - source that torah shebiktav is only torah not nach? – ray Nov 29 '16 at 21:46
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    Rabbi Nissan Kaplan explains in a lecture the Mir yeshiva...outlook...which he bases on the Rambam...Rabbi Kaplan says that since today most people only have a few years, we try to give them a full dose of "talmud only". Claiming that this is based on Rambam is quite a stretch. Rambam never addressed the person with limited time, and could just as easily (and I suspect much more likely) hold that the first priority is Torah Shebikav and Torah Sheb'al Peh. This is particularly the case, when one realizes that Talmud is primarily an exposition of former two; especially the latter. – mevaqesh Nov 29 '16 at 21:50
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    Lastly, note that in Rambam's usage "Talmud" refers to a mode of study; not a corpus of study, and certainly not the Babylonian Talmud. I suspect that this answer confuses all of these points. – mevaqesh Nov 29 '16 at 21:51
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    According to aishdas.org/asp/the-curriculum-at-volozhin @michaberger the curriculum in Volozhin included a study of Humash and the early Prophets with the commentaries of Rashi and R. Moses Mendelssohn, a study of Mishna, Shulhan Arukh, Grammar, Languages, and arithmetic. And that was just the first year of the cycle. This would directly contradict your claim regarding Volozhin. That being the case, it becomes an even more urgent imperative to find a historically convincing source to support your questionable claims. – mevaqesh Nov 30 '16 at 6:48
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    @ray this is a question on having a tangible criteria. Even with the use of the 1/3,1/3,1/3 system we dont know what to learn in particular i.e what mesecheta ect. The answer is irrelevant. – EconJohn Nov 30 '16 at 17:07

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