Teaching from the Torah

Point of View

Friday, August 23, 1985

Teaching from the Torah -- not the turntable

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

The rabbinic dictum "Talmud Torah Kneged Kalom" ("and the teaching of the Torah is above all") indicates the place of learning in Jewish life. Teaching the young the tenets of Judaism was paramount. Beginning with Moses, schools for the teaching of Torah were established. Zeal and religious devotion were given to the pursuit of Torah knowledge. Education was considered a lifelong process for every individual, but the sole objective of Jewish education was to impart to the young the knowledge of Torah and to bring him up a good and pious Jew.

Today in our so-called emancipated community, education means secular education. Jewish education has therefore lost its status; it has become a relatively unimportant thing.

The native-born, adult Jewish community is well satisfied if it can enlist the cooperation of the child for brief pre-bar mitzva training. This usually takes the form of a short superficial course, of rote teaching, that is almost entirely lacking in value.

When a son or daughter is ready for a bar or bat mitzva, the rush is on. There are phonograph records of the Haftorah to prepare a child for his big moment in the synagogue. The child no longer needs a school or even a private tutor. The record is his teacher and the phonograph his school. What kind of Yiddishkite can a Haftorah record impart to a child? How much love and feeling can it transmit?

Generally I question the accomplishments of all the scientific modern approaches to education. With all our pedagogic innovations, have we created children committed to the traditions of our faith and our people?

The purpose of Jewish education must be to give knowledge deep and rich enough to create Jews and to create an attitude for the return of Jewish observance of Torah and mitzvot. The lifeline of Jewish survival is dependent on that approach.