“Either a Hevruta Partner or Death”: A Critical View on the Interpersonal Dimensions of Hevruta Learning

Apr. 10, 2009

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 75, Issue 2, pages 130 - 149


How might one perceive the role of his or her hevruta partner in the hevruta learning relationship? Drawing on recent developments in the scholarship of rabbinics, this article offers an interpretation of a Talmudic legend that discusses three forms of interpersonal relationships in hevruta learning. Rather than considering hevruta learning as a formal setting meant to serve the learner's own learning, this interpretation offers a dialogic view of hevruta learning in which the learner carries a responsibility for the learning of his or her hevruta partner as well. The article concludes by suggesting further considerations of the interpretation of Talmudic legends as a resource for Jewish education and of hevruta learning as a locus for moral education.


By carrying out a close interpretative reading of the Talmudic account of the relationships of R. Yochanan and Resh Lakish from their first encounter until their tragic departure from this world, (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Metzia, 84a-84b), the author discusses three forms of interpersonal relationships in hevruta learning.
He illustrates how study of this legend might help students reflect on both the value of hevruta learning as well as some of its potential pitfalls


He claims that the legend might also be used to tap into unarticulated expectations and concerns that people bring to the intimate setting that hevruta learning is.


He concludes that "From a philosophical point of view, the contributions of these texts to our work as Jewish educators deserve serious attention including a theoretical foundation about the nature of the hermeneutic encounter with ancient texts."

Updated: Jun. 07, 2009