Towards an Integrated Curricullum:
Chulin Done On the Basis of Kodshim (Hebrew)

Moshe Genuth

It might be said without exaggeration that a truly integrative and successful religious-secular curriculum for the Jewish Day School is the 'Holy Grail' of curriculum research on Jewish Education. Such a program would have to both provide students with modern scientific and academic knowledge, while at the same time, fostering within them a unified and coherent set of cognitive skills and beliefs about their lives as Jews in a modern world.

To succeed where so many curricula have failed, it is argued in this paper, that we must go back a step and take a serious look (using both contemporary academic findings and contemporary Jewish philosophy) at the foundations of science, Torah and their possible interactions. As it turns out, the Torah-Science issue is one of the most complex to be dealt with in the last few generations. The mind-boggling success of Science during the past hundred years, especially in developing new technologies, has all but turned scientists and researchers into the infallible ‘prophets’ and ‘spiritual guides’ of our times. It is well known that their theories and beliefs to not usually harmonize with those dictated by Jewish belief.

On the other hand, it has become clear, to all but the most extreme Jewish Reactionaries, that it is impossible for mankind to retrace its steps to a time before modern science and technology. Therefore we are increasingly called upon to find a program to meet our young people’s educational needs as both future citizens of a scientific and academic society, and equally important as G-d fearing, dedicated members of the Jewish people. A program must be created in which '‘lechatchila,' modern science and arts are seen to go harmoniously in a non-apologetic and non-conciliatory manner with the doctrines of Jewish belief.

But the fostering of unity between modern thought and the Torah on the basis of coherence and dedication to Judaism alone are not enough. One of the principles of the Hassidism of the Ba’al Shem Tov is that "you shall know Him in all your ways." A Jew should be determined to find and reveal the Divine in every aspect of his or her life for there is Divine presence in everything. It is unacceptable that something so ubiquitous in our lives like science, technology and modern academic study not contribute to our awareness of G-d.

Indeed, there are a few exceptional individuals who claim to have reached a sense of unity, and can utter their admiration of the Divine in all aspects of life with the verse "how wondrous is Your creation, Hashem". But these individuals are the exception and not the norm. They may be said to have arrived at such awareness, in spite of, rather than thanks to the current Jewish educational system. It is therefore imperative that regardless of the number of failures we continue to press on in a search for a program the works.

The solution presented here is based on an exposition of the philosophical foundations of both science and Torah. As opposed to the usual attempt to unify science and Torah on the concrete level, the present research argues for an almost wholly abstract approach that seeks to find points of interconnection on the level of ideas.

The philosophical foundations of both science and Torah are analyzed for their similarities and differences, and a scheme for defining a 'higher common denominator' in the form of the Symbolic language of the two fields is developed. This 'common denominator' is then shown to be the basis for creating a curriculum in which the 'foundational and metaphysical tenets' of modern science can serve as explanatory instruments for the most difficult and abstract Torah concepts, especially concerned with the doctrinal beliefs of Judaism.

The metaphysical underpinnings of science and the scientific method have all but been vanquished from normative science studies. The Torah's doctrinal system of beliefs (i.e. the foundational beliefs of Judaism) are scattered in and between esoteric and difficult texts (like various Medieval philosophical works, Kabbalah and Hassidism) and are seemingly encoded in a language that is impossible for students (and usually teachers too) to comprehend. All these have to be presented in a clear and useful manner for student and teacher, in order to create a unified curriculum, and examples of such presentations are provided in this work.

It is further shown, on the basis of practical considerations, that for such an integrative approach to work, it must encompass all subjects taught in the educational system. Dealing with physics and chemistry while ignoring literature and history will simply not do. As such, it is argued that for best results, the adaptation of an integrated curriculum must be taken on an institutional level. An educational system wishing to implement it needs to tailor the curriculum to its particular ‘image’ of the desired product, the type of student it would like to graduate.

To adopt an integrated curriculum in practice, an educational system must first develop a 'core-curriculum,' usually one or more centrally defining texts, that act as the central focal point of all subject matter taught. In theory these texts should as best as possible define the set of beliefs and characteristics that a student graduating from the school system should ascribe to and exhibit. The core-curriculum serves as the common point around which all the integrative aspects of the curriculum are focused.


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