Friday, April 15, 2016

The Geometry inherent in Torah!

One of the benefits of the Frisch education is seeing the connection between Secular and Judaic Studies. Our goal is for students to see the connection between the different disciplines that they are learning and to apply what they learn in one class to other classes.

 This past week, two freshman Geometry classes participated in a two-session interdisciplinary class showing the deep connection between Geometry and Talmud. The first session was led by Rabbi Gedaliah Jaffe, a member of the Frisch Tanach and Talmud faculty. As a way of introduction, Rabbi Jaffe told the students a midrash which described the Menorah as a symbolism of knowledge, the center branch symbolizing Torah and six other branches representing other forms of knowledge including Arithmetic, Logic, and Geometry. Deepening our understanding of Torah, explained Rabbi Jaffe, allows us to further our understanding of other disciplines. The Chazon Ish was someone who embodied this reality; students were amazed to learn of the his ability to prescribe detailed descriptions of how to perform a brain surgery when he had no official medical background or degree but was “simply” a man immersed in Torah study. After he discussed the importance of Geometry in understanding Torah, Rabbi Jaffe highlighted several places in the Talmud where Geometry is needed to define halachic applications necessary for our performance of mitzvot. Rabbi Jaffe taught students the Talmudic measurements of an “amah” and “tefach” and the reason that those were used instead of inches or meters. He showed them topics in Masechet Eruvin in which the sages determined whether walking or continuing to travel on Shabbat was permitted, based on complex Geometric calculations.

Throughout the lecture, Rabbi Jaffe discussed the relevance of these ideas in modern times. He spoke about walking from Highland Park to Edison (the community where he serves as a shul Rav) or Camp Morasha to Camp Lavi. That night, the students were instructed to write about the part of the lecture that they found most interesting. Their wide range of responses - from the intricate math calculations to the anecdotal stories about our ancestors - showed us how our students have varying interests and are truly diverse learners.

The next day the two classes again combined and Mrs. Teichman and Mrs. Katz, the teachers of these two math classes, helped the students apply some of the mathematical topics that were discussed the previous day. The students were impressed by the accuracy of the rabbis’ solutions from over 1,500 years ago. Not only did the students see how the skills that they are learning in the math classroom can be applied to other classes, but they hopefully saw how Torah permeates and has practical ramifications on our daily lives in and out of the walls of Frisch.

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