Monsey Boys Are Digging Through Seforim Instead of Fossil Fields

Rabbi-Scientist Yechiel Krisch came to sixth through eighth grade boys of Cheder Chabad Monsey with a proposition: tell me what fascinates you and I will show you what Torah and halacha have to say about it. The topics came fast and furious.

Do dinosaurs exist?

Talmidim of Cheder Chabad of Monsey’s mechina division, digging through sefarim instead of fossil fields, are poised to find out.

In Shvat, rabbi and scientist Rabbi Yechiel Krisch, came to the sixth through eighth grade classes with a proposition: tell me what fascinates you, and I will show you what Torah and halacha have to say about it. The topics came fast and furious. Boys were interested in black holes and nuclear power, mythical beasts and weapons of mass destruction, astrology, and cars.

“The emphasis of the course is twofold,” Krisch explains. “B’chol d’rachecha da’ehu. We want the students to understand that they can find Hashem in everything. And we are empowering them to demonstrate to those who believe that Torah is a dusty old book, that every single thing is sourced in Torah.”

The series’ premise is based on a sicha from 1969. On a hot Shabbos afternoon in Menachem-Av of that year, just before Apollo 11 landed on the moon, the farbrengen at 770 featured a sicha on aliens. The Rebbe said that he was discussing aliens not because they inform our avodas Hashem but because it is critical for people to know that aliens can be found in the Torah (Shiras Devora). In general, the Rebbe continued, it is important to be familiar with the Torah’s take on what interests the public because when a person goes on mivtzoyim he can make an initial connection through that timely topic. When people see that each concept is in the Torah, and not only that, but that Torah presents the definitive and most ethical opinion on these matters, the reputation of yiddishkeit is strengthened.

For their recent exploration of dragons, the students began by opening their chumashim. They then hopped over to the Mishna, perused a daf in Gemara, and dissected some relevant sources in Chassidus. “The boys are always surprised and thrilled to discover that these familiar sources are discussing topics that interest them in 5784,” shares Krisch.

This course is part of a rich mechina program rolled out this year by Rabbi Shaya Itkin. In an effort to prepare talmidim for mesivta, the initiative blends additional learning and creative programs with the school’s rigorous curriculum. One popular example has been regular visits by Rabbi Shmuly Butler who delights the boys with precious items and stories from Beis Rabbeinu. “It’s all about implementing innovative and engaging ways to enhance our children’s chinuch,” explains the school’s Executive Director Rabbi Dovid Brawer. “One stimulating class at a time.”

“Our goal is to demonstrate unequivocally that the Torah has something to say about everything that they are interested in,” Krisch states. “Hopefully that will give them a lifelong chayus in their learning and in their chassidishkeit and the ammunition to transmit that chayus to others.”

As for the dinosaurs? You’ll have to come to class to find out.

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