A Word Problem

by | Oct 23, 2019 | Curriculum | 0 comments

In the process of getting ADRABA started, I learned even more about blended learning, Jewish engagement and how ADRABA’s approach to Jewish learning is truly unique in Toronto, if not all of Canada.  I’ve also had to content with a lot of math.

Remember word problems?  “Two trains leave the station at the same time, one heading west and the other east.”?  Here’s one for you to ponder that I cannot seem to crack.

There are thirty-five weeks in an academic year.

The Ministry of Education requires schools to provide 110 hours of scheduled instructional time per credit course.

How many hours a week does a student need to learn in order to earn a high school credit?

The correct answer seems to be ONE.  

“One” wouldn’t have been my answer, but it seems to be the most popular answer these days in some circles.  (The correct answer, incidentally, is 3 hours and 8 minutes.) 

Since we’re being creative with math, I would like to propose an even better answer.

Why an hour a week for a high school credit?  Why not fifteen minutes a week?  Why not ten?  Why not get a credit while you stand on one foot?

There is, after all, a precedent in Jewish tradition for the last option…

A gentile asked Shammai to convert him on condition that the rabbi teach him the entire Torah “while I am standing on one foot.”  The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) recounts that Shammai pushed him away with the builder’s cubit in his hand. Perhaps Shammai did not have an ear for marketing?

Incidentally, a Mississauga man, Suresh Joachim, holds the record for standing on one foot for 76 hours, 40 minutes.  He could have been learning the whole time – and it still wouldn’t get him a high school credit in Ontario.

When it comes to scheduling, juggling extra-curriculars and such, a “one hour a week” option seems do-able, if not downright perfect.  One hour a week?  For a credit?  SIGN ME UP.

Except the math doesn’t work.  You may only be sitting in a classroom for an hour a week, but the rest of the time owed the Ministry has to come from somewhere.

Incidentally, when the same gentile came to Hillel, Hillel did what Israelis call a hafukh-al-hafukh, responding to the obvious trolling with authenticity.

He said “That which is hateful to you do not do to another.”  Wise words indeed!  

But he didn’t stop there.  He told the gentile that there’s more (i.e., “the rest is its interpretation”) and, most importantly, there’s more to do (i.e., “Go study!”).

Jewish learning is not about a race to the bottom, to see who can do the minimum in the least amount of time. 

It’s about a profound engagement with our histories, values and traditions. 

It’s about an approach that centres critical thinking and asking big questions and uncovering even bigger answers. 

It’s about fostering a deep social connection with peers in the context of growing as Jews. 

But most of all, it’s about what Hillel said: going and studying.