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PARSHAT EMOR – THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING CHILDREN

בס”ד

PARSHAT EMOR 5784

Introduction

In this blog, we will learn from Parshat Emor about the importance of good teaching for children.

The Command to Educate Children


We do not need to dive deep into Parasha Emor to learn an important universal lesson we read in Leviticus 21:1.

Hashem said to Moses: Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: None shall defile himself for any [dead] person among his kin, וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ד’ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה אֱמֹ֥ר אֶל־הַכֹּֽהֲנִ֖ים בְּנֵ֣י אַֽהֲרֹ֑ן וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ לֹֽא־יִטַּמָּ֖א בְּעַמָּֽיו

Rashi explains:

אמר אל הכהנים SAY UNTO THE PRIESTS [… AND THOU SHALT SAY UNTO THEM] — “Say” and again “thou shalt say unto them” — this repetition is intended to admonish the adults about their children also — that they should teach them to avoid defilement (Yevamot 114a).

The importance to teach children is also seen in Deuteronomy 6:6:7


Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day.
 ְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָֽנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ
Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. וְשִׁנַּנְתָּ֣ם לְבָנֶ֔יךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֨ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ

Abraham’s Example

In the Kehot Chumash they note that it is extraordinary that it is only here in Parshat Emor that the education of children is being discussed, after all, teaching children, of the new generation is one of the most important things to be done. This applies not only to Jews but certainly to non-Jews as well.

In Genesis 18:19 we read how important G-d considers good education of the children, we read:

For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of Hashem by doing what is just and right, in order that Hashem may bring about for Abraham what has been promised him.” כִּ֣י יְדַעְתִּ֗יו לְמַ֩עַן֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְצַוֶּ֜ה אֶת־בָּנָ֤יו וְאֶת־בֵּיתוֹ֙ אַֽחֲרָ֔יו וְשָֽׁמְרוּ֙ דֶּ֣רֶךְ ד’ לַֽעֲשׂ֥וֹת צְדָקָ֖ה וּמִשְׁפָּ֑ט לְמַ֗עַן הָבִ֤יא ד’ עַל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם אֵ֥ת אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֖ר עָלָֽיו

In the previous verse we can read what G-d spoke about, among other things, viz:


since Abraham is to become a great and populous nation and all the nations of the earth are to bless themselves by him
 וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם הָי֧וֹ יִֽהְיֶ֛ה לְג֥וֹי גָּד֖וֹל וְעָצ֑וּם וְנִ֨בְרְכוּ־ב֔וֹ כֹּ֖ל גּוֹיֵ֥י הָאָֽרֶץ

These verses seem to work together to show us that that is a major reason why Abraham became the progenitor of the Jewish people and that the nations would be blessed in him.

Good teaching, Torah-based teaching, is so logical that there was no need in the Torah to name it only here in a specific situation. The Kehot Chumash points out that it was appropriate to name it here, precisely because it was the task of the priests to teach the Jewish people, that their children receive a good education – and thus would later go on to teach well – it makes their task to be done with even more precision, to put it bluntly. After all, 1 drop of ink instantly makes a clear glass of water cloudy.

Teaching well does not come naturally, mistakes are easily made, a wrong word, a wrong explanation, or just a sigh of “again the same question” or reacting irritated to inattentive or uninterested behavior of the students.

Starting with Prayer

Likutey Moharan 1, 2:9 notes that in Leviticus 21:1, the word “say” (אֱמֹ֥ר וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣) appears twice. It refers to Rashi’s commentary:

“‘Say’ and again ‘thou shalt say unto them’ — this repetition is intended to admonish the adults about their children also — that they should caution them to avoid defilement (Yevamot 114a).”

“‘Say’ refers to prayers, because EMoR is like he’EMaRta (האמרת, you have spoken), which indicates praise (Deuteronomy 26:17). ‘Kohanim’ refers to the Torah, ‘Aaron’ corresponds to justice, since Aaron wore the Breastplate of Judgment.”

I am blessed to work at a Jewish elementary school, which means, among other things, that we begin the morning with a moment of silence to focus for a moment on a conversation with Hashem. It is wonderful to see with how much concentration and deep intention and, above all, sincerity the children can do this. As at teacher, I see the impact that starting with a prayer has on the learning proces of the childeren. It teaches children to begin their day with a moment of conscious gratitude to Hashem. A joyful heart makes the rest of the day’s learning easier.

It gives me as a teacher the opportunity in that moment to ask Hashem to lead me that day in guiding and teaching these children, because I need His help to give the children the best education possible.Not only the normal school subjects but also Torah values and norms, and where it comes up Hashem’s commandments ( 613 for Jews and 7 for non-Jews).

It is also a good example for the children, to see that the teacher is praying with them, which hopefully motivates them to continue their prayers even as they get older.

Setting a good Example

Setting a good example for your children applies to all parents, Jewish and Gentile parents must live for their children as G-d wants us to live.

One interpretation I make in Deuteronomy is, and you shall teach them to your children and speak of them – the commandments to them, when you sit in your house and when you go out “to the Amusement Park” etc. Saying that you shouldn’t steal will make little impression when you joked about your child’s age at the entrance desk of an Amusement Park because you will get a cheaper ticket. But it will make an impression when the cashier asks how old your child is and you have to say that he is just a year older than the cheap fare and you pay this amount without a sour face or a “too bad isn’t something else” – comment. Those are those golden example moments where you teach your child that you must be honest and not steal from anyone.

Finding Suitable Materials


For non-Jewish parents, it can be a challenge to find suitable material for their children to learn from. Of course, one can use Jewish materials, but one should always be aware that there may be commandments and customs explained and used there that are not intended for Gentile children. So, it is important to be selective about this.

Interesting site might be:

https://torahlive.com

https://www.torahtots.com

At Sukkat Shalom Bnei Noach, we also try to develop our own materials. See our children’s page for this. https://sukkatshalom-bneinoach.com/kids-corner/

If you have a good story, or a craft or anything else that you would like to share with others please share it with us so that we can put it on our website so that more people can enjoy your story or craft and the children benefit.

There are not many books specifically for non-Jewish children.

I would like to specifically point out the following reading book “Seven Laws of Noah by Rabbi Yerachmiel Altman in this spot.

And the following coloring book which is about the story of Noah by AskNoah

Let us teach our children how to live and in addition let us pray that we may receive support from Hashem for this and let us pray for more learning materials to be made available for Gentile children.


Conclusion: Educating Children is Sacred

The lesson from Parashat Emor is clear: educating children is a important duty. Whether through prayer, setting a good example, or providing suitable materials, parents and educators play a crucial role in shaping the next generation.

By Angelique Sijbolts

With thanks to Rabbi Tani Burton and Dr. Michael Schulman for the feedback

Sources:

Kehot Chumash Parshat Emor
Rebbe Nachmans Torah, Parshat Emor.
Text: Sefaria.org

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