5th Grade is generally a transition year for the boys of Torah Day School of Phoenix. It is the first year that they learn Gemorah, and it is also the last year that Chumash is the main subject in their Limudei Kodesh classes.
Since this is the last time the boys will be learning Chumash as the main subject, 5th grade Rebbe Rabbi Nosson Ungar set his class a very ambitious goal- to complete the entire Sefer Shemos, from the beginning, by the end of the year.
This would be the first time in TDSP history that the 5th grade has completed the entire Sefer from start to finish in one year.
There are 11 Parshiyos in Sefer Shemos. The first few Parshiyos, like Shemos, Vaeira, and Bo, deal with the narrative of the Bnai Yisroel leaving Mitzrayim.
The last five Parshiyos like Teruma and Tetzaveh and Vayakhel and Pekudei, are more technical, discussing the building of the Mishkan and the clothes of the Kohanim.
To achieve the goal of finishing the Sefer by the end of the year, Rabbi Ungar is teaching the five or six narrative Parshiyos “’B’iyun” -meaning in-depth, and the last five more technical Parshiyos “Bekiyus”- meaning in a more cursory fashion.
Rabbi Ungar uses the B’iyun Parshiyos to develop the boys’ technical skills throughout the year, increasing the difficulty of the assigned tasks as the year progresses.
When the boys learn Parshas Shemos, at the beginning of the year, they are required to match the Pesukim with the translation.
In Parsha Vaeira (the second parsha), it gets a little harder. Rabbi Ungar asks them to find the Shorashim (root word) in each word and work on their own translation.
In Parshas Bo, the boys not only have to find the Shorashim, but also the Techilios and Sofiyos (prefixes and suffixes) of each word, and In Parshas Beshalach the boys are given one Pasuk a day that they need to translate on their own.
And, when they learn Parshas Yisro, every day a different boy writes and translate a Pasuk for the class on the whiteboard.
For the Bekiyus Parshiyos, about the building of the Mishkan, the boys are using “The Mishkan” an Artscroll DVD that has realistic simulations of the way the Mishkan and its vessels looked. As the read the Pesukim, they can see what it is they are reading about.
All this is on top of the other skills and content that Rabbi Ungar is teaching in his class, such as the meaning of 300 unique shorashim, learning Rashis every day, and studying the introduction to Gemorah.
All in all, by the end of the year, the boys not only have accomplished learning a great deal of content, but they also feel secure in their decoding and translation skills.
“Anyone who is putting in the effort definitely feels like they have accomplished a lot (at this point in the year),” said Rabbi Ungar.
“Six months ago, if I opened a Chumash I wouldn’t be able to translate a posuk on my own,” said Dovid Meir Wohlgelernter. “But now I feel comfortable doing that.”
The boys hope to celebrate finishing Sefer Shemos with a big siyum at the end of the year. (We will keep you posted on that!)