Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Methods of Scripture Memorization by the Early Jews – Mnemonics

All of this intense mental activity in direct competition with a cognitive ability to abstract; perhaps leaving these ancient people deficient in or maybe even without any ability to abstract (scary!!!):

The Jews used mnemonic devices, or memory aids to help them memorize Scripture.
With such a demand on memory, there were ingenious memory devices and aids invented to aid in the memorization of the Torah and oral law. One such aid was involving the whole body in learning – it was thought that movement, or swaying, was a mechanical aid to memorizing.
In the Palestinian Talmud, there are two stories that help students remember the Aleph-Bet and incorporate moral teaching into learning the Hebrew consonant, “The shape of the letters, wherever possible, is used as a mnemonic device to help the children retain the appearance and order of the letters as well as to remind them of the moral message.” This technique will reappear in Medieval memory treatises which they called ‘visual alphabets’. 
One method utilized by teachers was a system of chanting or intonation to help the students remember their verses called ‘Pisuk Ta’amim’, “The origin of this system is reported to go back to very early times and its knowledge was transmitted orally…The employment of melody…served a twofold purpose – it appealed to the esthetic sense, making for a greater appreciation of the Bible and it impressed more effectively the content upon the memory of the learner and listener. 
The Rabbis also attempted to arouse interest in the subject and favored having students learn and study texts that they were interested in – an interest in any subject helps memory retention as will be discussed under heading VII of this essay. 
 “People were advised that in studying the Torah they should choose those topics that had a special interest for them, ‘that their heart desired.’  
It is significant that the heart is mentioned, for the Jews believed, as did Aristotle, that memory resided in the heart. 
 Such an idea was itself taken from Scripture. To reiterate Morris, comments, “‘Remembering’ or ‘recalling’, is in the Bible frequently synonymous with ‘coming up to’ or ‘putting into’ the heart. And conversely, to ‘forget’ or ‘be forgotten’ is equivalent to ‘departing’ or ‘removing’ from the heart.”

This "heart" thesis is rejected today as the memory is viewed as being in the brain in the head...

In any case, a lot of effort here in developing techniques to achieve rote memorization perhaps at the expense of the person's ability of abstraction...

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