Hevruta is a term that refers to a pair of people engaged in studying Jewish texts together in a particular manner. Your hevruta is your partner in studying the text.
Traditional Jewish text study is about exploring different aspects of a text and wrestling with (considering, responding to, arguing with, riffing on) both what you find in the text and what you and your hevruta have to add. In this wrestling process, you and your hevruta are creating something new with this text. If you include any other commentators in your studying (whether ancient or contemporary) they too become part of your conversation. Usually, two people study together in hevruta. If necessary, you can use this same format in a group of three, but no larger.
The Hevruta Process
The following are some steps to guide you in the process. These first steps are appropriate for all hevruta and especially if you are studying with someone who is not a regular hevruta partner.
- Each hevruta thinks of some guiding question for the text. This question could be based on reading a previous selection in the text, some point that was made in the shiur, or some question about practice that immerged in the va’ad.
- The hevruta share their essential questions.
- One hevruta reads the text aloud to the other without comment or conversation.
- The other hevruta reads the text aloud to the first reader without comment or conversation.
- Read one line at a time. Before you go on to the next line, see if either of you has any ideas or questions that you might want to talk about.
- Your job is to encounter the text together with your hevruta.
- You and your hevruta together decide how much you read and what to focus your discussion on.
In studying the text, you and your hevruta might want to try one or more of the following ways of reading:
- As you read, write down every question you can come up with relating to what you are reading.
- Notice what you notice. What jumps out at you?
- What is missing in the text?
- What doesn’t make sense?
- What does the text teach?
- What should the text teach?
- Read one line in Hebrew and then the same line in English (or read the English first and then the Hebrew).
- Have one person read it and the other(s) act it out. This is particularly useful if you’re getting bored, confused or annoyed.
- Leyn it using Torah trop.
A process for Hevruta who study together regularly and are developing a Mussar based Hevruta process:
- Share the most important thing to share about your mussar practice this week.
- Read the text out aloud
- Come to consensus about what the text is talking about at the surface level
- Identify the areas of the text you are struggling with and apply a contemporary Mussar vocabulary to those aspects of the texts.
- Record question(s) to bring to your Vaad or other Mussar partners.
- Consider how this text relates to your experiences with the Middah of the week.
[Adapted from "TorahQuest Guide to Hevruta Study".]
The Hevruta Experience
The story of the relationship between Rabbi Yochanan and Reish Lakish as related in Bava Metzia 84a is an informative illustration of the relationship between hevruta. A hevruta might want to study this text to sharpen their work together.
|"One who learns from one's friend a single chapter, or a single Halakah, or a single verse, or a single expression, or even a single letter, must show him honor."||
הַלוֹמֵד מֵחֲבֵרוֹ פֶּרֶק אֶחָד אוֹ הֲלָכָה אֶחָת אוֹ פָּסוּק אֶחָד אוֹ דִבּוּר אֶחָד אוֹ אֲפִילוּ אוֹת אֶחָת - צָרִיךְ לִנְהָג בּוֹ כָּבוֹד