Torah Lishma or Free Period?

Out of the seven Talmud classes for juniors in Track 1 Talmud, one is designated as an optional class known as Torah Lishma. During this period, students can either choose to attend and learn something related to Judaism that is not part of the core curriculum or have a free. Though Torah Lishma is meant to be an insightful class, I think the class should be switched to a free period.

I have Torah Lishma class on Fridays during second period and my Rabbi usually takes us to Starbucks. However, there have been countless times when my teacher disregarded this period and has taught us material that we would be tested on. Because this period is still referred to as “Talmud” on students’ schedules, there is much room for Talmud teachers to ignore this optional period and teach anyway. Torah Lishma is not really an optional class, but a class where teachers can choose if they want to teach or give a free period. The policy of Torah Lishma has great potential to make students realize that it is good to learn for the sake of learning, not just for a final grade. But since Torah Lishma class is not taken seriously and is not enforced, it should just be abolished. Instead, juniors in Track 1 Talmud should be given a free period.

Additionally, giving juniors an assigned free period would relieve them from the heavy workload and would allow them to destress. Whenever I am supposed to have my Torah Lishma classes, I never know if I am going to have to learn material relevant to the curriculum or if I am going to get a free period. There was even a time when I purposely did not do an assignment due the day of my Lishma period because I thought I could finish it then, but I awoke to a post on Schoology the next day saying that we will in fact have class during our assigned Lishma period. This caused me great stress and anxiety, and I knew that there was nothing I could do about it; even though I had the right to assume that we would have a free period, I was wrong, and I would have to make up another time to complete my work. It seems like this Lishma period is pointless! Sometimes I had a free period and sometimes I didn’t! Therefore, I believe this Lishma period should just be switched to an assigned free period on students’ schedules so that they have a designated time where they can complete work during school or just relax.

While it is nice to have an indicated period to learn about anything related to Judaism without being tested on it, this has not worked out. Instead, my class is either given a free period or is forced to learn material relevant to the Talmud curriculum. In fact, I have only had two “real” Torah Lishma periods all year! The best solution to resolve this issue is to simply make Torah Lishma into a designated free period.