Hilchot Shabbat Come to Life at Yeshivat Shaare Torah Expo

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Pnina Souid 

 

Have you ever seen a gymnasium turned into a zoo?! If the answer is no, then you weren’t zocheh to attend the Hilchot Shabbat Expo at the Yeshivat Shaare Torah Junior High School on February 18th. 

Those who were fortunate enough to attend reported that the atmosphere at the gym-turned-zoo was exhilarating! It was hard to believe how a school gym could be totally transformed into an Expo full of amazing displays and real live animals, but that is what they did!  

Hands-on Approach to Learning 

The boys have been learning hilchot Shabbat, the laws of Shabbat. The Expo focused on malechet tzad, the prohibition of trapping and confining animals, which is one of the 39 melachot prohibited on Shabbat. The expo was put together to demonstrate what may or may not be done concerning malechet tzad. This hands-on approach has changed the way hilchot Shabbat is being taught and being learned.  

In learning about the melachot of Shabbat, the boys are not just involved in book learning and listening to their teacher. The learning has also been hands-on, guided by the creative curriculum developed by the Junior High School Menahel, Rabbi Rahamim Falack. Rabbi Falack’s boundless enthusiasm is contagious and has rubbed off on both the rabbanim and their students. 

Stations Set up to Delight and to Teach 

Upon entering the Expo, visitors were treated to a video presentation featuring students explaining in detail the various laws pertaining to melechet tzad. 

The Expo was set up with stations and posters explaining what was entailed in the halachot that they were learning. The general definition of the melacha was the work used to build the Mishkan. Animals were caught in order to make the leather and fur coverings of the Mishkan. 

Each station had a different type of animal. There were dogs, snakes, hamsters, goats, a sheep, a cow, roosters, a lizard that resembled a mini alligator, and birds. But the birds were not in cages!  A man known as the Parrot Rebbe, in a special frock and shtreimel, strolled around the Expo, placing birds on people’s shoulders and heads.  

Students manning their stations were happy to answer questions. The boys were all remarkably knowledgeable and whatever they did not know they offered to find out. 

At the farm animals station one could feed and milk the goats, and take a snip of the sheep’s woolly coat. All with assistance, of course. 

 

Parents’ Reactions 

Mr. Mayer Chemtob, a parent who attended the Expo exclaimed, “This brings Torah to life! Unbelievable. My son is very excited and opened his Gemara intrigued.”  

Another parent, Mr. Michael Solomon, said, “It was more hands-on than ever before. What an original concept!”  

“The melacha of trapping animals is clear to the students and is tangible to them. By engaging students in hands-on activities, we are able to create a deep learning experience and ensure that knowledge stays with them for the long term.  This is all their work,” said one of the school’s rabbeim, Rabbi David Mansour. 

Excitement All Around  

Everyone in attendance was excited. Who would have thought that it was possible to bring together so many live animals just to teach the boys a subject that is usually done in the classroom, with the teacher in front of the room and the boys following along in their sefer. 

At the close of the Expo came the finale, a Halacha Decathlon, testing the students’ knowledge.  

Rabbi Falack proudly reported, “They were asked applications to the laws that they had to apply on the spot! The Rosh Yeshiva and the posek, Rabbi Yosef Srour, were very impressed with the knowledge of the boys. They didn’t just say the law but gave the reasons behind it! All with confidence. So many boys really knew their stuff. We had about six boys that made it to the end! That’s called knowing your stuff.” 

Rabbi Falack concluded, “It was hard to believe that this project with immense detail would actually happen. Everyone has dreams, don’t dismiss them, just work at them diligently and you will be surprised that it will become a reality!  A special thank you to our YST Junior High rabbanim who worked alongside in this tremendous project.”