'OF FAINTING MAIDENS AND WELLS'
Bible Study in the Yeshiva Curriculum:
A Halachic, Historical, and Ideological Overview
By Ya'akov Beasley
"Just as a bride is bedecked with twenty-four ornaments, so too a scholar is bedecked with (knowledge of) the twenty-four books of Bible" - Rashi, Sh'mot 31:18.
"Study of Bible is an accomplishment, yet not an accomplishment; but the study of Oral Law, there is no greater accomplishment then this." - Talmud, Baba Metzia 33a.
At the end of the previous century, the Mirrer Yeshiva’s Mashgiach Ruchani brought a student to the Rosh Yeshiva for disciplining. After hearing the charges, the Rosh Yeshiva slapped the hapless pupil in front of the student body. He had habitually assembled other students for the purpose of studying Bible between afternoon and evening prayers . Although extreme, this anecdote illustrates the paradoxical relationship that exists between the Bible and those who claim to be its true practitioners. Ask the average yeshiva student to endanger his life to prevent a Bible’s desecration, and he would not hesitate to comply. But if you ask him to learn it? He’ll hem and haw, and make a vague promise to make time someday. He definitely wouldn’t learn it in yeshiva, where Talmud studies prevails. The Netziv once said that his students “knew the Bible through the Talmud, and knew the Talmud through the Ketzot” . Is this ideal? How did this situation evolve? This paper will examine the role Bible study has historically played in yeshivot, discuss the halachic issues involved, and explore contemporary insights on this topic. Ultimately, one discovers that the debate over Bible study’s role in yeshiva curriculum revolves around an earlier, greater controversy: what role should yeshivot perform? Only by appreciating what yeshivot have accomplished in Jewish history can one suggest reintroducing Bible study inside the yeshiva's sacred walls.
B. THE HALACHIC ISSUES...