Make Talmud learning and Talmud thinking accessible and understandable for everybody.
Our mission is to make Talmud learning and Talmud thinking accessible and understandable for everybody.
There are things in life people would like to understand. They may have some skill they’d like to learn. However, in the end it doesn’t work out. They just let that desire go. They don’t even attempt to try and gain that knowledge, or try to learn that skill. So they remain unsatisfied.
Many times they don’t give it a go because there is no one to explain to them how the thing really works, or how to be successful at it. For example they won’t start investing in the markets, or start gardening, or cooking in the kitchen, because they have never seen it done. They don’t have anyone to really explain it to them, and they don’t know how to be successful doing it. A natural fear of failure pervades. So those desires remain unfulfilled.
Our mission is to show you how the Talmud works; its process of analysis and decision making. We will give you the recipe for the ‘secret sauce’. It would be a stretch to say that Talmud thinking is simple, but you may be surprised to find out that there are a few basic ‘Thinking Structures’ that repeat themselves over and over again. Each one, when isolated, can be learnt fairly easily. There are a few basic principles that guide all the discussions. When taught one by one, with a good explanation and uncomplicated examples, they are fairly easy to handle. Then you will know what to look for in all of the Talmud’s discussions. Once you know what to look for, recognizing it is much easier. This will allow anyone access to every Talmud conversation.
With our teaching technique the Talmud doesn’t remain just for the naturally gifted, or the “A” students. Anyone who wants can learn clear systematic thinking. Knowing how the Talmud works, and being able to appreciate ‘the play’, (what kind of attack was initiated and how it was defended), is where the ‘fun’ lies in Talmud learning.
Talmud Brilliant’s goal is make anyone who wants, an ‘insider’ of the Talmud .
A Little bit about Our History
What’s the history of TalmudBrilliant?
How did it come into being?
Like many things that come into being, it started with my own needs and frustrations. I had a problem I needed to solve, so I started researching how to solve it.
After many years of learning Talmud, I still felt I didn’t really understand how the Talmud worked.
It’s organization was a puzzle. The same questions persisted. Why did it sequence its investigation the way it did? On what basis did it pick one opinion over another? These unknowns, among others, were holding me back. Too often, it seemed to me, like an intellectual magic trick- ideas, difficulties and solutions to problems were being pulled out of a hat.
My help came in the form of a book about the Talmud thinking process. It covered all the basic underlying principles and rules.
The book explained that the thinking process of the Talmud is a ‘natural’ process. Meaning that it is the same thinking process that we all use everyday to gain clarity, produce new ideas, make decisions.This was an incredible insight, and very important for me. It meant that the fundamental basics of the Talmud thinking process were not beyond my reach, because apparently, my own mind was already using them. It also meant that my everyday thinking could function as my ‘thinking laboratory’.
The more I became aware of how I was processing information and making decisions, the more I became aware of those same structures in the Talmud. The more I became aware of them in the Talmud, the more I began to integrate them in my everyday life. They began to feed off of each other.
It was exciting! It became fun!
Learning Talmud went from a nerve wracking challenge to an enjoyable adventure in the thinking process. I now understood the hows and the whys of it. After moving from frustration to enjoyment, I decided that I wanted to share my new understanding, my goodies, with anyone who is interested.
The book (actually it was 3 little books by the same author) were written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, who is commonly referred to by the acronym of his name, the Ramchal. He was a Rabbi in Italy in the 18th century. He is famous for his books on character development and for his books on Kabbalah. His lesser known books about mind development and its thinking process were initially written for his students in Amsterdam. The students were educated people but they had no background in Talmud. So the Ramchal wrote for them concise manuals of the governing principles and rules of the Talmud. I have found that they are the best books on the subject ever written.
They serve as the strong and sound foundation of everything we teach here at TalmudBrilliant.
About Rabbi Fenster
who am I? where did i grow up?
How did i get involved in learning Talmud and teaching Talmud?
Hi. I am Rabbi Fenster. Let me tell you a little about myself.
I grew up in Queens New York in an extremely Jewish family. My father is a prominent Conservative Rabbi in the New York area. We always had a lot of Torah books, in our home. Till this day, in his 90’s, my father learns everyday. I and all my siblings were sent to the Solomon Schechter School.
I attended Alfred University in up state New York and SUNY at Purchase, majoring in history. After college I decided that I wanted to learn Talmud. I didn’t know how.
My thinking went something like this- most things in life are in flux; a person lives in different places, our bodies change, money comes and goes…but one thing in my life, I knew, would remain constant- that I’m Jewish. I was born Jewish and I’ll die Jewish.
So I figured, it was worth investing some time in this. For me that meant going to the primary sources. I needed to check out things for myself. As a teenager I had fallen in love with Jerusalem. I saw Jerusalem when it was a divided city, before the 6 Day War. I was electrified when the Israeli Army unified the city 2 months after my bar mitzvah. For me, as for many others, that was a watershed moment in my life.
So after college I bought a one year ticket and I was off to Jerusalem to study.
I put myself into a Yeshiva where a person without a Yeshiva background could learn how to learn. Much different than today, at that time there were very few opportunities for this.
From day one my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Goldstein, told us not to just study Talmud, but also to learn the books about Talmud study. He said, it’s important to understand their method. It will help you to go deeper in your learning.
I took him at his word. And he was right!
I married a girl from Kansas City and Gd has blessed us with 9 children, and a big and growing bunch of grandchildren. Our home is an English speaking home. My daughters have all gone through the Beis Yaakov system, and my sons learned in the Israeli Yeshiva system. We have been lucky enough to live in The Jewish Quarter of the Old City our whole married lives. We could hear from our home the celebrations at the Kotel the night Natan Sharansky arrived in Israel. We rushed into the sealed rooms during the First Gulf War, and lived through 2 Intifadas.
That was not fun!
We have seen the Jewish Quarter develop from unpaved streets and plazas, with construction workers and their donkeys, into a beautiful community with 700 families.
Along the way I was tested at the Chief Rabbi’s office for smicha. I also received smicha from several of the prominent Rabbis of Jerusalem, and from my Rosh Yeshiva. I teached Talmud in several Yeshivas, and ran my own program with a friend.
I have always taught a systematic clear thinking approach to help my students gain insight and organize their thinking. I believe if presented properly, this will open the door for anyone who wants to get more easily involved in deeper learning.
So I have remained on the same track all these many years, of learning how to learn Talmud,. The only difference is, I started as a seeker, and have became an instructor.
Now, I am only too happy to help other seekers on their path to success!