In the 3rd Century BCE, the brilliant Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes was perplexed by a riddle. Two crowns were forged, one with all gold and one with some silver mixed into it. They looked and felt the same. How could one tell the difference between the two and discover which one was pure gold?
As he sat down in his bath and watched the water rise, Archimedes realized that every object has its own specific weight per volume. At this moment, he discovered the principle of density, and as legend has it, was so excited by this original idea, he ran through the streets screaming “Eureka, eureka!” meaning “I have found it!” still naked from his bath.
That is the power and excitement of having an original idea. The enthusiasm and emotion make us want to run and scream “Eureka!” (Keep your clothes on though!)
Several years ago, a friend of mine told me that scientists were trying to understand what happens to the brain when one has an original thought. The problem - he explained to me - was that they wired their subjects up with sensors, and then didn’t know how to get them to have an original thought.
“Easy!” I told him, “Just get them to study Torah!”
My friend, who also happens to be a religious atheist, bristled at the idea. “Are you saying studying Torah is the only way to have an original idea?”
“No,” I explained. “But studying Torah is an essentially creative act in which one has many original ideas. One reads an ancient text and thinks about how it reflects on modern life, or one’s own personal experiences. One looks for connection to other texts, or tries to think about how a mis-spelled word might be hinting at a greater spiritual truth. Every time I read Torah I have original thoughts, because I am the one making the connections. No one can think like me.”
This is one of the powers of a Jewish Day School. We have a ready-made tool for generating original thoughts. While most kids can spend days, weeks, or even months learning facts, practicing mathematical equations, and writing 4-paragraph essays, our students have another dimension to their education: Torah. Every week, they are asked to understand our ancient text; but more so, they are asked to reflect on it, relate to it and use their creative intelligence to make Torah new again. Torah adds a level of creativity, complexity, and originality that enriches the mind in deep and profound ways.
If you are looking for a great school…