Emor 5780

May 6, 2020

Generating Education Even In Lockdown!

 

The current lockdown is sure to have ramifications for a generation. We now realise how lucky we were to have our children educated at school and overnight we have been turned into teachers of all subjects, advisors, therapists, exercise teachers and quite frankly everything a parent should be! The issue is perhaps we had become too reliant on the automatic pilot of schools to educate our children rather than insuring they get that special dose of attention and learning at home.

Kids nowadays are so intelligent, they have all the right answers!

Teacher: “Why are you late, Joseph?”

Joseph: “Because of a sign down the road.”

Teacher: “What does a sign have to do with you being late?”

Joseph: “The sign said, ‘School Ahead, Go Slow!

 

The commandment to educate our children – Chinuch – is one of the foundations of Judaism.

Our Parasha opens with the words “Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon and tell them” (21:1), hinting to us at the importance of teaching the younger generation.

Let’s delve into this subject and come out with a brighter concept of education that can help us manage the overdose of home-schooling during the lockdown.

 

The redundancy of the Pasuk including both “Emor” — “say” — and “Ve’amarta” — “and tell” — teaches us that the elders should educate the minors to avoid things prohibited by the Torah. The Gemara (Yevamot 114a) states that this message is found three times in the Torah:

1) In the prohibition of eating blood.

2) The prohibition of eating insects and other swarming things.

3) The laws of purity and defilement.

 

Why is the parents’ educational role emphasized in these three laws?

The Lubuvitcher Rebbe Z’l answers that the fact that the Torah chose to emphasize the education of minors in these three laws dismisses popular myths regarding education:

 

1) Some people believe that you cannot change the conduct of a habitual transgressor. Regarding the prohibition of eating blood, however, the Torah says “Rak chazak levilti achol hadam” — “Only be steadfast in not eating blood” (Devarim 12:23). The expression “rak chazak” is used because eating blood was a common practice in those days (Rashi, ibid.). Consequently, by commanding adults to enlighten minors regarding the blood prohibition, the Torah is accentuating that even a hardened transgressor can and should be inculcated with Torah teachings.

 

2) Some people contend that it is futile to try to teach Torah and Mitzvot to people who are gross and unrefined. Therefore, we are taught that even people devoid of human instincts, to the extent of eating swarming creatures, should be taught Torah, which ultimately will refine them.

 

3) Some people advocate teaching children only concepts which the human mind can comprehend and they object to teaching matters which are based on faith and absolute submission to G‑dliness. The Biblical laws concerning defilement and purity, however, are Heavenly decrees which are incomprehensible to the human mind and in the category of “statutes” (Rambam, Hilchot Mikva’ot 11:12). Thus, by stressing the relationship of adults and minors regarding the laws of defilement, the Torah emphasizes the teaching of matters beyond the intellect.

 

Education has always been at the heart of our nation. It is our most powerful defence weapon and should be available and taught to all, no matter how impossible it might seem.

The Torah writes that Avraham Avinu was endeared to Hashem because of his dedication in passing on his belief and faith to his children – “He will command his children and household to keep the ways of Hashem, doing charity and justice.” (Bereishit 18:17-19).

 

Rabbi Elya Lopian comments (Lev Eliyahu ad. loc.) that even though Avraham had already passed ten tests and kept the entire Torah, including the Mitzvot D’rabbanan – Rabbinic ordinances (Yuma, 28b, Rashi Bereishit, 26:5),nevertheless, the Torah attributes his endearment because he transmitted the Torah tradition to his children.

 

The first mitzvah of the Torah is “Pru u’revu” (Bereishit 1:28). This is generally translated as “be fruitful and multiply” and simply meaning to have many children. The Shelah Hakadosh (Shaar Ha’otyot – Derech Eretz; cf Shulchan Aruch O.C. # 231), writes that the purpose of the mitzvah is to raise children in Torah and Mitzvot.

Our Sages (Tosfot Bava Basra 13b) term this commandment a “Mitzvah Rabba” – a great Mitzvah, because the more Jews that are in the world, the more Mitzvot will be fulfilled.

Marriage and setting up a new family is sacrament. Selling a Sefer Torah is no simple matter, yet when it comes to providing financial means for a couple to get married it is permitted. – Shulchan Aruch E.H. 1:2.)

 

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch (Bereishit 1:2) explains how this concept is actually implied in the Torah’s words. He writes, “Pru simply means to have children, like pri – fruit of a tree. However, revu implies something greater. The children are to be replicas not only of the physical and bodily traits of their parents, but also of their spiritual, intellectual and moral selves. Accordingly, parents have to plant the spiritual and moral best of themselves in their children and carefully nurture their development. They must form, educate and cultivate them. Revu demands the founding of the home and the family, the nursery for human education.”

 

Thus, a child is born into a family not only for his material needs, such as love, food, clothing and shelter, but also to guide and mould his personality. The obligation of parents is to pour themselves into their children by raising, moulding and creating a Jewish family.

 

This responsibility is clearly stated by the Chafetz Chaim who equates the parents’ child raising obligation to the Mitzvot of Talmud (Studying) Torah, reciting Kriyat Shema and praying Shemona Esrei. He writes:

 

“Just like it is an obligation to learn Torah and pray Kriyat Shema and Shemona Esrei, and to fulfil all the Mitzvot, it is an even greater Mitzvah for each parent to designate time to supervise the Chinuch of their children in order to ensure that they follow in the ways of our forefathers.” (End of Sefer Chomat Hadat)

 

Due to our very hectic lives, busy schedules, personal involvements and pressures of earning a livelihood, parents sometimes forget that they have to be educate and raise their children! When Hashem gives us the wonderful gift of a child, it comes with a tremendous responsibility of raising him or her to lead a life of Torah, and good character traits.