Having read a wonderful collection of essays several years ago in a book, Wisdom from All My Teachers, edited by Saks and published by ATID, I was primed for a brief but exciting point-counterpoint by two leading Torah scholars on a subject close to my heart: studying Talmud in a Yeshiva high school setting. Both Rabbis Lichtenstein and Brandes feel passionately about their conflicting approaches to a worrisome condition — the challenges facing Jewish pedagogues in teaching Talmud to diverse yeshiva high school students, with varying intellectual and spiritual levels of talent, expertise, and perhaps even commitment. Despite raising issues, highlighting the challenges, and suggesting some solutions, the book sheds little new light and neither contributor is singularly compelling or convincing. In the end, I felt as stimulated as a student in a less-than-thrilling Gemara class starting out with the opening passage of the Tractate Baba Metziah—Two were fighting over a talit (prayer shawl). This one said “It is mine!” and this one said “It is mine.”
William Liss-Levinson is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information, and publishing company. He holds a Ph.D. in education and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council.