Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mishnah Yomi with a Child. Just Do It.

Almost two and a half years ago, I started doing the Mishnah Yomi program together with my son Bezalel, when the cycle began at Brachot. (He reads, and I listen and comment ever so often). While he at first resisted, after about a week he came to value it about as much as I do. We're now almost three Sedarim in, hoping to finish Masechet Kiddushin later this week and begin Seder Nezikin.

While the learning itself is good (and important), I'd like to put in a plug to you, my reader, to give the father-son (or mother-son, or father-daughter, or mother-daughter) Mishnah Yomit a try. I can give you quite a large number of reasons:
1. Systematically working through Mishnah exposes you to a wide variety of topics and subjects and gives you a sense of the scope of halachah and Jewish law.
2. It only takes a few minutes a day
3. Like daf Yomi, the fact that it's a daily program, forces one to learn even a little bit each day. Unlike Daf Yomi, it's only two mishnayot. Bite size chunks.
4. Even though I didn't think that I had the time, it's clear that I did. We make the time.
5. Here's where the parent-child learning gets important: There have been days when I've been so mad at my son that I didn't want to talk to him, much less sit and learn with him. But the Mishnayot keep coming, and there's no way to stop them. So we learn. And this forced communication, especially when we're struggling to communicate, is powerful and important.
6. You can accomplish a great deal just doing a little bit over time. It's only two mishnayot a day, and now we're almost done with three Sedarim, that we've learned together.
6a. Even when we're apart, we still find ways to learn together. We've done the Mishnah via Skype, phone, Google Hangout - the Mishnah has forced me to spend time with my son, even when I didn't "have" the time.
7. My son's reading and learning skills have grown tremendously over time.
8. Finally, the Mishnah often covers topics, like sexuality, fairness, and other issues, that gave me, as a parent, an opening to discuss topics that I may not have been comfortable breaching in another forum with my teenage son. Halachah doesn't mince words, and at some point when you learn a Mishnah you have to say, "Do you know what that means?" and if he doesn't, explain it. What better way to broach difficult and challenging topics than over the study of Torah.

So, to sum up, Just Do It! Even if you think you don't have the time, as soon as you're doing this for a month, you'll realize that you do. Don't know how to learn Mishnah that well? Buy an Artscroll, or Kehati, or listen online. You can even find a podcast from the OU. Seder Nezikin begins this Friday.
You will never regret joining the program. That's a guarantee.