If you are a beginner at Torah study, mazal tov! If you are worried about “doing well,” here are seven tips to help you learn and enjoy:
- STUDY WITH OTHERS. Reading Torah by yourself is good, of course, but Jews typically study with partners or groups. We do this for a number of reasons, but most of it boils down to the obvious: two heads are better than one, and ten heads offer lots of resources for looking into a text.
- READ ALOUD. Read a verse, or a section aloud, then discuss. Hearing the text is different than reading it, and will spur different ideas. Even if you have read the text a hundred times before, read it aloud.
- LOOK AT THE TEXT. While someone is reading the text, keep your eyes on it. Look at each word as it is read. Even if your reading skills are poor, follow along. Hearing and seeing the text will help unlock it for you.
- NO SINGLE RIGHT ANSWERS. When Jews study, we are not looking for the “right answer.” Usually there are many right answers.
- BE SELF-AWARE. Our reading of stories in Jewish texts will be colored by our own experiences. It’s not bad to have those reactions, but it’s good to be aware of them, and to remember that others may have had other experiences. For instance, some students feel very identified with Joseph and angry with his brothers. Others have the opposite response: they find the young Joseph insufferable! There’s room at the table for all of us.
- LISTEN AND SPEAK. Hillel said, “The shy person will not learn” – if we don’t ask questions and speak up, we don’t learn much. However, the converse is also true: the person who is always talking will not learn much either. Listen to what your study partners have to say, and think it over. Don’t just react.
- BE REGULAR IN STUDY. Don’t drop into a group occasionally: become a regular. Regular attendance with your Torah study group will help you form relationships with both the text and with the others in the group.