In the first verse of this week's reading, the Torah repeats itself, saying, "Say [in Hebrew, 'emor'] to the priests [kohen's], the sons of Aaron and say to them". Rashi explains the repetition of the term "to say" with what is now a famous expression: "to warn the older [priests, concerning their teaching responsibility] for the younger [priests]."

This is not the only scriptural basis for the obligation of adults to educate children. The Talmud (Yevamot 114a), points out three different commands where the same double use of the word "say" is employed: the prohibition to eat insects, the prohibition to consume blood, and the prohibition for priests to defile themselves. Why are these three commandments used, as examples to demonstrate the importance of education? And how, indeed, can we best educate our children?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe identifies what these three commandments have in common and explains that it is their very uniqueness which makes these commandments difficult to teach to a child.

Even a person who is totally fixated in a bad pattern of behavior…must be taught….

Eating insects is something we find naturally disgusting. On the other hand, the consumption of blood, though equally repulsive, was nonetheless, a common and widespread practice. Finally, the laws governing the defilement of priests possess no apparent rational basis. A teacher today would feel frustrated, incapable of effectively communicating these concepts. For this reason, the Torah underscores the urgency to educate our children specifically about these three commandments, in order to confer upon us the extra strength required for this challenging task.

From this, we learn three educational principles: Firstly, if a teacher has a student who behaves despicably, the situation is not hopeless. Secondly, it is commonly believed that although it is normally possible to teach anyone who is receptive to new ideas, if a person is habituated to some horribly inappropriate behavior then the situation is hopeless; the Torah categorically disagrees, teaching that even a person who is totally fixated in a bad pattern of behavior, such as eating blood, must be taught, because even he can change for the better.

Education can…alter a person's perception dramatically….

Lastly, conventional wisdom maintains that you can only teach things that can be explained logically. If students should adopt a position that they do not believe something, then there is not much room to change their minds. Accordingly, the Torah emphasizes education in the context of the defilement of the priests, something totally supra-rational, informing us that education can, in fact, alter a person's perception dramatically. For implanted in the inner recesses of every Jew is an eternal faith that a proper education can uncover and nourish.

When the Torah gives us a directive, it is also actually imbuing us with the strength to fulfill it. The Torah never demands more than we are capable of; therefore, we should never feel that any of its directives is beyond us. Fortified with this insight, we can fulfill G‑d's commandments with confidence and with joy, knowing that we are doing our part in hastening of the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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