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The Narrative of Matan Torah. Lauren Kirschenbaum , Menachem Menchel , Hartley Perlmutter and Allison Rubin. Introduction. The nature of Jewish education

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the narrative of matan torah

The Narrative of Matan Torah

Lauren Kirschenbaum, MenachemMenchel, Hartley Perlmutter and Allison Rubin

introduction
Introduction

The nature of Jewish education

  • Children grow up learning the stories of the Bible before reading them inside, and therefore they often approach the text with preconceived notions.

Our Interest:

  • To see how people assimilate the text of Matan Torah with their preconceived notions of the story and other foreknowledge.  
  • To see how different people understand ambiguities within the text and contradictions between what they have learned in the past and what is written in the text.
procedure
Procedure
  • 2 Novices (3rd and 4th grade boys)
  • 2 Experts (teenage boys in high school)
  • Protocol: Asked interviewee to:
    • Summarize Matan Torah based on general knowledge
    • Draw a picture of Matan Torah
    • Read verses about Matan Torah (from Sefer Shmot) and explain the ambiguities and offer resolution to discrepancies between their summaries and the pesukim
observations
Observations
  • Teenagers are less talkative and need trigger questions
  • Remember the more dramatic aspects of Matan Torah (EgelHazahav, breaking the Luchot)
  • The experts were aware of the abstract aspects depicted in the pesukim (KanfeiNesharim), while the novices focused on the concrete happenings
slide5

Analysis- Abstract vs. Concrete

Some of the key distinctions between our novices and expert interviewees manifest with regard to abstract reasoning versus concrete reasoning

EXAMPLES:

1. Shofar

2. “Eagles Wings”

3. “Kedusha”

slide6

Analysis- Abstract vs. Concrete

There were exceptions to this distinction and we could not find consistency between both novices in each example.

slide11

Analysis- Drawings

Our analysis of the drawings led us to several interesting observations:

  • When drawing the ‘scene’ of Matan Torah, people are more likely to recall and to portray the components of the story that are most dramatic
  • e.g. -- breaking the luchot, despite it not being in the text
  • A potential theory for this behavior is that it is most memorable
slide12

Analysis- Drawings

Our analysis of the drawings led us to several interesting observations:

  • ‘Depicting’ God:
  • Both novices and Expert 2, seemed to want to portray God in a physical way, within the picture.
  • Novice 1 -- wrote the letter “hei” in a cloud
  • Novice 2 -- ?
  • Expert 2 – A cloud covering the whole sky
slide13

Processes

Our interviewees demonstrated numerous schemas, as well as a few mental models.

Schemas:

  • Both novices and Expert 2 incorporated a schema of rounded luchot included a picture of rounded luchot in their drawings
  • Novice 1 incorporated a schema associating fire with wood and thus, in depicting fire, he drew a charred branch -- this seemed to be a manifestation of his need for concrete reasoning because from his perspective, fire needs to burn something.
slide14

Processes

(continued)

  • Novice 1 demonstrated a schema that mountains have snow at their tops
  • Novice 2 incorporated a schema of language and prefixes which manifest in his understanding of the word “encamped”
  • Expert 1 exhibited a story script associating greatness with the drum roll effect. He described thunder and lightning as the drum roll of God
slide15

Processes

(continued)

  • Expert 2 described Matan Torah within its own schema
slide16

Processes

Mental Models

  • Utilizing a drawing to depict a story is a mental model that was employed by all interviewees (and prompted by interviewers)
  • Novice 2 attempted to construct a mental model when discussing where Hashem/God was
conclusion s
Conclusion(s)
  • Experts remembered Matan Torah according to the stories they are taught in elementary school, even if they learned Shmot again in High School
  • This might teach us to re-evaluate how we teach Jewish Studies. Vivid stories seem to be more effective then learning from the pasuk.
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