|Heart and Mind|
Chaya B. Grodner
At the end of the summer, when the new catalog of Matan class offerings arrived, I opened the envelope with great anticipation. Having spent the past 2 years as a student at Matan, I have come to expect great courses given by brilliant Torah scholars. My expectations have always been met and often go beyond.
When poring over the course options, I did not hesitate to immediately check off those with teachers I have learned so much from in the past, Shani Taragin, Dr. Yael Ziegler, Rachel Furst. It was a "no brainer" to register for these courses, for not only were the instructors brilliant, where Tanach and Mishnah just roll off their tongues, but they make learning so enjoyable. At the end of their shiurim, I let out a WOW! As well, looking for something new, I registered for a class in Chasidut with Yardena Cope-Yossef. I had heard her speak at an open forum and knew I would get spiritual uplift from learning with her.
If I am already at Matan, why not try to optimize my time and take a full morning of classes? But, Parshat HaShavuah? Please! From Sunday School and Talmud Torah, to adult education classes, how much more can I learn about the weekly Parshiot? And, who is Atara Snowbell?
Well, let me tell you about my latest WOW experience at Matan. Atara Snowbell is absolutely another shining star at Matan. Not only does she know her subject, but she consistently finds something new in each Parsha to analyze and dissect. Often it is line by line, showing us clearly what is already there - we just didn't see it. How could we not have seen it? How is it that no one ever taught it to me before? It blows away each one of the students in the class. Another great teaching method she uses is to compare personalities in the Parshiot to show how their lifestyles were so similar, how their character traits dictated their actions, their futures. Her teaching presentations are way beyond her years of experience. She is a natural teacher!
Parshiot Vayigash and Vayechi are prime examples. We studied and focused on the parallel relationships between Yosef and his family and his relationship with Paro and Egypt. In particular is the story of Yosef distancing himself from Paro. From the very beginning when revealing himself to his brothers, he excludes the Egyptians. Yosef further alienates the Egyptians by making sure that his family is not assimilated into Egyptian society by giving the brothers land in Goshen for themselves and all their belongings. Paro, on the other hand, extends an invitation to the brothers as he wants them in Egypt. He tells them to come and not to bring anything from Canaan He will take care of them, i.e., creating a dependency on him and Egypt. In the end, the family accepts Yosef's offer. Even Paro acknowledges this by stating your brothers are coming to you. At the same time, Yosef's brothers distance themselves from him as he reveals himself. The lack of familial relations with his brothers is apparent in the fact that they will be living in Goshen as he returns to Egypt. I think by now, you are getting the picture. The separations are even more apparent as we come to Vayechi.
How sad for Yosef. He is so alone. He is not an Egyptian and he is not truly part of the family. When we read Vayechi Yaakov, it is spread across two chapters about his death and burial, including recognition and participation by Paro and the Egyptians. But, at the end of the same Parsha when we read Vayechi Yosef, his death takes one sentence - he dies, he is embalmed and he is placed in a coffin. No grand burial scene. WOW!!! Did you see this before?
With great pride, I can tell you that Atara, Rachel, Shani, Yael and Yardena are ALL Matan graduates. They have participated in one or more of Matan's accreditation programs and now are outstanding teachers at Matan and other institutions of higher learning in and around Jerusalem. Many others of Matan's graduates are also teaching at Matan and in schools around the globe.
Fortunately, it is not often that I have to miss a class. Previously, when I was absent, I asked other classmates to share their notes with me. Now, Matan has made it easy for me to NEVER miss a class. As a registered student in all my classes, I am entitled to receive the course online. I just log on, can even download the source materials, then watch and listen as Atara or Rachel or Shani or Yael or Yardena deliver their shiurim.
Matan is 21st century in every aspect. If I forget a date or activity, I go to Matan's place on Facebook or Twitter and get the latest information. May I suggest you check it out - you just might find a "free" sample shiur from some of Matan's fantastic faculty!