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The continuity and endurance of the Jewish people hinges on education.

Education 101

Education 101

Intermediate Intermediate
Education 101
The continuity and endurance of the Jewish people hinges on education.

Education is paramount in Judaism. "Without kid-goats, there can be no billy-goats", the Sages mused; the continuity and endurance of the Jewish people hinges on education. Still, the Torah surprisingly does not mandate education until parashat Emor, fourteen Torah portions after the giving of the Torah (in parashat Yitro), and even then, it only refers to the necessity for the entire people to educate the young indirectly - through an injunction to the priests.

…the Torah takes education for granted.

Why is this? Because the Torah takes education for granted. There is no need for it to mandate basic education; it treats it as a given. The centrality of education in Judaism goes back all the way to Abraham (Gen. 18:19).

"G‑d said to Moses: 'Say to the priests, and you shall tell them'…." (Lev. 21:1)
[The redundant expression, "and you shall tell them" serves] to instruct the adult priests to caution the junior priests [regarding the ensuing commandments]. (Yevamot 114a, quoted in Rashi on the verse)

The Torah does instruct us, however, to make education "shine". Instead of sufficing to set an elementary standard for our youth or feeling content with their basic observance of the mitzvot, the Torah urges us to teach them to perform the mitzvot optimally, even beyond the letter of the law, so that they - the mitzvot and the children - sparkle. The Sages alluded to this in their interpretation of the verse quoted above: the Hebrew word they used for "to caution" ("lehaz'hir") also means "to make shine".

The Torah teaches us this lesson through its instruction to the priests because, first and foremost, their role demands a higher standard of observance, and, secondly, their task is to help others rise spiritually and become close to G‑d (through the sacrificial service). We are to educate our youth not to merely be well versed in the Torah and punctilious in observing its commandments, but to be part of "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" - to go beyond the letter of the law and be dedicated to G‑d.

We are to educate our go beyond the letter of the law and be dedicated to G‑d.

This lesson appears after most of laws of the Torah, towards the end of the Book of Leviticus - the book most focused on the mitzvot - to suggest that this emphasis on education be all-encompassing and that it is predicated on the Jew's basic commitment to study and observance.

Furthermore, this message appears appropriately in parashat Emor, for this portion contains the mitzvah of Counting the Omer and is annually read in the season of that mitzvah's observance. This is because the Counting of the Omer signifies our collective education as a people.

The Exodus marks the birth of our people; the giving of the Torah celebrates our collective bar mitzvah, i.e. entrance into adulthood. Between them, the phase of education unfolds, during which we cultivate proper attitudes through the preparatory exercise of counting the Omer. The Torah requires our counting and spiritual cultivation to be "complete", embracing and refining all 49 components of our emotional infrastructure. Indeed, the Hebrew word used for "counting" ("sefira") also means "gleaming" or "shining" (see Lev. 23:15 and its commentaries). What more appropriate a mitzvah than the Counting of the Omer to convey this message of optimal and resplendent cultivation of our children - of the child in years, the child in Jewish knowledge, and the child within each of us.

Based on Sefer HaSichot 5750, vol. 2, pp. 443-7; HaYom Yom, 10 Iyar
Copyright 2001 Chabad of California /

Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, writer, editor and anthologist, living in Jerusalem. He has recently produced two monumental works: "Apples from the Orchard: Arizal on the Weekly Torah" and a Chumash translation with commentary based on the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Kehot).
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (11 Nissan 1902–3 Tammuz 1994) became the seventh rebbe of the Chabad dynasty on 10 Shevat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century, a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah, and fluent in many languages and on scientific subjects. The Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet, having sent thousands of emissaries around the globe, dedicated to strengthening Judaism.

Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky is a scholar, author and anthologist, and is editor-in-chief at Chabad House Publications of California. He is the author and translator of Apples from the Orchard, gleanings from the writings of the Arizal (Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1534–1572) on the Torah, and is the author and editor-in-chief of the Kehot Chumash produced by Chabad House Publications, featuring an interpolated translation of the Torah with commentary adapted from the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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evan vernon belize, belize via March 7, 2015

interesting. I fine it so intriguing that this is a given in this system. this truly explains a whole lot when it comes to a proper understanding of this crucial component which underpins this ancient system. this foundational infrastructure is an awesome monumental achievement in the development of this people in their un matched journey. education seem to be the vehicle that made it all possible. of course it is all inspired by their mental belief system, the torah and the leadership modus operandi that navigates this journey. it prepared them to encounter and faced continuous challenges and survive into this century and are striving. I certainly would like to learn more about this amazing people and their phenomenal journey. would like to know more about this system which places such high premium on education and purposeful human development. I believe that this model is the correct universal model that is universally beneficial to all of humankind. it merit have been proven often. Reply

Anonymous downey, California via March 15, 2013

Holiness what is the holiness of God? thank you Reply

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