Learning Chumash In Volozhin
Excerpt from "Discovering the Netziv and his Ha'amaik Davar":
What do we know about the Netziv's approach to students and his manner of teaching daily the weekly Torah portions? Fortunately, we have a window into that aspect of the Netziv's life from Bar-Ilan:
One of the unique features of the Volozhin Yeshiva was "learning Chumash." In no other known yeshiva was Chumash regularly studied. How do you explain that mature students, already adept in Torah and the learning of Gemorah, would spend time studying Chumash? Isn't that only a subject to be taught to young children?! Could there be a youngman who has reached the age of maturity who is learned in Torah studies but does not yet know Chumash? Nevertheless, in Volozhin a different attitude prevailed. My father used to say, 'Neither mature yeshiva scholars nor young students today know Chumash, Prophets, or the Writings. How will they ever learn if at some point in their lives they don't seriously devote themselves to it? When the time comes that these young students and mature scholars become rabbis in Israel and have to prepare Derashot, or sermons, they will surely need to search in Prophets and Writings for texts. But they will never learn or be well-versed in Chumash!
Meir Berlin added these details:
The schedule of each day at the yeshiva began with "teaching Chumash." Immediately after prayers the brightest students would gather alongside one of the tables, and my father, z"l, would learn the weekly portion with them. Even on the Sabbath they would gather in this way. The learning of Chumash at Volozhin was completely different from the usual way the subject was taught. It is possible to understand my father's method of teaching Chumash by observing his approach in the Ha'amaik Davar along with his notes in the Harhev Davar. Yet even that hardly does it justice, because the most exalted description used in print still cannot convey a fraction of the joy a student would experience in having heard my father teaching Chumash in person. He put so much enthusiasm into every single letter of the written Torah, such immense love and feeling into his explanation of its verses according to the Oral Torah, one cannot adequately describe it.