By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
Nine-year-old Joey was asked by his mother what he had learned at Hebrew Sunday school.
"Well, Mom, our teacher told us how G‑d sent Moses behind enemy lines on a rescue mission to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When he got to the Red Sea, he had his engineers build a pontoon bridge and all the people walked across safely. Then he used his walkie-talkie to radio headquarters for reinforcements. They sent bombers to blow up the bridge and all the Israelites were saved."
"Now, Joey, is that really what your teacher taught you?"
"Well, no, Mom. But if I told it the way the teacher did, you'd never believe it!"
One of the sacred tasks of parents and teachers is to educate the next generation and to impart to our children the knowledge and values of our Torah. We cannot be content with our own study – we have to teach the young.
This mitzvah is featured in this week's Torah portion Va’eschanan (Devarim (Deuteronomy) 3:23-7:11) in the words of the Shema which we recite thrice daily: “…teach them to your children, to discuss them, while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise…”
What is intriguing is that the great codifier Maimonides, as well as R. Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in his Code of Jewish Law, present the laws relating to teaching Torah to our children before presenting the laws of studying Torah. It seems quite obvious that one cannot teach before studying. Why would the laws pertaining to teaching a child precede the adult’s requirement to learn? Particularly considering that the power and advantage of a developed, adult, mature mind is enhanced and magnified by the wealth of life’s experiences and challenges of one’s past, which can be shared with the younger generation.
But there is a deficiency and handicap in an adult’s approach to absorbing the words of Torah. So often, objectivity and humility are casualties of preconceived ideas. Our life’s experiences have formed calluses on our attitudes and philosophies. We begin to judge by our decisions rather than decide by our judgments.
How often are we left unmoved by a truth because we are self-consciously aware of the ramifications of accepting such truths? We fit teachings into lifestyles rather than confront the challenge of change.
The laws of studying Torah are preceded by the laws of teaching a child, to remind us how to absorb the words of G-d. The learning of a young child – so eager, so fresh and so unencumbered by life’s baggage – is like “ink written on fresh paper,” – teaching us the art of true Torah study.
May our spiritual and intellectual journeys always retain the effervescence, passion and innocence of a child. May we, this Shabbat Nachamu,("Shabbat of Comfort" following the period of mourning of Tisha b’Av), find comfort, optimism and belief in a world about to be redeemed, by allowing ourselves to peer through the eyes and hope of a child.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Dovid Hazdan)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos !