Reading Comprehension?… I Guess Not
In my Yeshiva I am currently teaching Issur V’Heter to a small chevra who want to take the Rabbinut Semikha exams. This has been ongoing for about two months now. Something I have become convinced of within this space of time is that the Israeli Yeshiva system puts a great deal of emphasis on being able to read a text very quickly and very little emphasis on reading comprehension. Please understand these are all folks whose native tongue is Hebrew, so it shouldn’t be an issue of difficulty with the language.
To give an example, someone reads a bit from the Shulhan Arukh. I ask him to tell me what was said. He goes back and reads it again. I put my hand over the text and say, “I know that you know how to read, I want to know if you know what you just read.” I am answered by a blank stare. Or the Shakh writes three ways in which he disagrees with the Taz. I ask, “Do the Shakh and Taz agree?” The answer, “Yes.” Now if we were dealing with the complexities of Kabbalah I would understand the difficulties in understanding the text. However, we are talking the Shulhan Arukh. That is about as simple as it gets.
Yes I understand that it takes some work in order to work out what all of the mefarshim are saying in relation to the text and each other, simply because you have to keep in mind what all of them have said, and what the new one is trying to add to that understanding. However I find it scary that they don’t easily comprehend and retain what is being said in the Shulhan Arukh. What have these guys been doing for all the years they have been learning in Yeshivot?