The Zilberman Method is a system of teaching the Torah to young students, pioneered by Jerusalem rabbi Yitzhak Shlomo Zilberman, that emphasizes rote learning of the text, while leaving the more advanced study of Talmud to older students. Schools employing the method are colloquially referred to as Zilberman Schools.
The Zilberman Method draws upon traditional teaching methods as outlined by Chazal and championed by Judah Loew ben Bezalel and the Vilna Gaon. The Mishnah and the Talmud set forth halakhic guidelines for teaching Torah to children. These guidelines include the ages at which texts should be studied: "Five years old [is the age to begin studying] Scripture; a ten year-old [learns] the Mishnah; a thirteen year-old for the mitzvot ([obligation of the] commandments); a fifteen year-old [for the study] of Talmud…"; the times of study (including Shabbat for children; Hachazan roeh heichan tinokot korin – the chazzan observes [on Shabbat] where [in the text] the children are reading) and the manner of teaching (safi lei k’tura –stuffing the children like oxen; ligmar inish v’hadar lisbor –read the text and then explain it.
The Zilberman method has children focus exclusively on Tanakh and Mishnah in their younger years, ensuring that they know large portions of both areas by heart before they begin learning Gemara (Talmud). Indeed, graduates of such schools tend to have impressive fluency in these areas. Two key elements in Zilberman’s methodology, however, must be singled out: chazarah (review) and student participation.
In the Zilberman-styled school, a new text of Chumash (Scripture) is introduced in the following manner. On Monday and Tuesday, the teacher chants the text with the tropp (ta’amei ha’mikra) and the students immediately imitate him. This is repeated several times until the students are able to read the text independently. Then the teacher introduces the translation/explanation of the text and invites students to participate in the process. New words typically need to be translated only once; subsequently, students are encouraged to call out the translation on their own. All translations are strictly literal. If the translation does not automatically yield a comprehensible meaning, the students are invited to try to find one. The class spends the rest of the week reviewing the material. Each pasuk is reviewed with the tropp at least twenty-four times. Adjustments are made for each grade level.
In Shabbat 63a it states, "A man should recite, and only later expound." This is in contrast to standard procedure in the Torah world, where intense scrutiny of the text at a relatively young age is favoured over the covering and committing to memory of vast amounts of material. Zilberman also instituted that school sessions be continued on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, albeit at a reduced schedule.
Yitzhak Shlomo Zilberman kept the practice of donning his tefilin all day, and so encouraged his students. In normative practice, the tefilin are removed after Shacharit. Zilberman was one of the first rabbis to promote the usage of tekhelet, and encouraged his students and family to make use of the dye in their tzitzit. He encouraged his students to get married young, because it states in Pirkei Avot “An 18 year-old [enters] the chuppah (wedding canopy)".
Zilberman found the existing Jerusalem heders' curriculum not suitable for his own children, so he began to teach them at home according to his method. In the beginning of the 1980s, after years of limited success with incorporating his teaching style in existing institutions, Zilberman founded, with the help of his sons, a school in the northern part of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem. The school, Yeshivat Aderet Eliyahu – also known as "Zilberman's Cheder" – adopted its founder's method, and became an inspiration for many of his students, who later branched out all over Israel founding schools with the same teaching approach.
Schools using the Zilberman Method
In addition to Yeshivat Aderet Eliyahu, numerous other schools throughout Israel adhere to Zilberman Method principles, including Talmud Torah Yishrei Lev.
- GOTTLIEB, DOVID. "The Zilberman Method". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
- Rabbi Gershon, Tannenbaum. "The Zilberman Method: Innovation In Torah Education". Retrieved 11 December 2017.
- Misnah, Avot 5:21
- Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 11a. See Rashi, Ran
- Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 50a
- Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 63a
- Gottlieb, Dovid (March 8, 2010). "The Zilberman Method". OU.org. Jewish Action.
- "Rav Yitzchok Shlomo Zilberman: The Zilberman Derech -Charting a New-Old Path", The Jewish Eye
- Hadar, Alon (23 August 2007) "Goodbye to All That", Haaretz. "They wore tefillin [phylacteries] all the time."
- Meyers Epstein, Varda (3 January 2014) "Tekhelet: A Choice or an Imperative?", The Jewish Press