Parshas Emor begins with a very peculiar posuk – Hashem tells Moshe to “Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them”. Speak and say. Rashi picks up on this double terminology and brings from the Medrash and the Gemoro (Yevamos 114a) – “To warn the elders regarding the youngsters”. Meaning, there is a responsibility on the adults to teach and educate the children regarding this Mitzvah (the Mitzvaos relevant to the Kohanim).
This critical and fundamental responsibility of adults to educate children is clearly a central theme throughout the Torah, as it highlights the importance of chinuch and building a foundation for our children.
The question is, why would such a fundamental concept of the Torah – that parents are tasked with providing a Jewish education for the next generation, not be mentioned until now? We are well past the story of Matan Torah, past the construction and inauguration of the Mishkan, and only now are we introduced to this concept, why?
Parshas Emor is always read in the month of Iyar. What is unique about this month is that every single day is permeated with the Mitzvah of Sefirat Haomer (interestingly, the Mitzvah of Sefirat Haomer is discussed in Parshas Emor as well). This period of Sefirat Haomer is very much connected with education. On Pesach, the release of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, signifies the birth of the Jewish nation. Seven weeks later on Shavous, we received the Torah – our Bar Mitzvah if you will. The period in between, the time when the Jewish people counted each day towards the giving of the Torah, is the time the Jewish people were being educated and refining themselves in antipication and preparation of the receiving of the Torah on Har Sinai.
This novel and special time devoted to education is unique. Yes, the concept of education predates the period of the Jews in the desert. One of the trademarks of Avraham Avinu, one of the reasons why Hashem proclaimed His love for Avraham, is because of Avraham’s dedication to education – “L’maan asher yetzaveh es bonov ves beiso acharav” the possuk says (“Because he educates his children and his household after him). Nevertheless, the education that is being expected of us during Sefiras Haomer, the concept being taught to us in Parshas Emor, is of a different category.
Our possuk, the gemoro, and Rashi teach us a vital component to chinuch – “Lehazhir gedolim al haktanim” – Lehazhir comes from the word “Zohar” – to enlighten, to shine, to be a source of light. Chinuch is not just teaching, it is about empowering, lifting, and showing our children how beautiful it is to be a Jew. Sefiras Haomer also – Sefira is from the same term as “Even sapir” – a gemstone, a shining stone. It is not enough to check the box that we have fulfilled our obligation of chinuch, it must be something that we are invested in – to uplift all the “ketanim” – biologically, emotionally, and mentally – to uplift the people around us to the greatest heights and appreciation for the Torah that we will all accept once again in a few short weeks on Shavous. The duty to provide our children and those around us with a proper Jewish education involves more than teaching the basics. We must invest in permeating a desire and a drive within our children for the service of Hashem.
Dedicated in honour of my father’s (Reb Dovber Ben Reb Naftali) 15th Yartzeit 9 Iyar.