The Anatomy of a Mitzvah

For the week ending 5 May 2018 / 20 Iyyar 5778

The "Heart" of Educating

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
Library Library Library

“G-d said to Moshe, Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you shall say to them….” (Vayikra 21:1)

Rashi explains that the Torah’s choice to use the double expression of “Say” followed by “and you shall say” is meant to command adults with regard to minors. Rabbi Mizrachi (Constantinople, 1450-1525) explains that the first “say” is addressed to Moshe, “and you shall say to them” are the words that Moshe is to say to the Kohanim. Accordingly, the verse would read like this: You, Moshe, say to the Kohanim: “And you Kohanim shall say to your children.…”

In the Torah portion relating the giving of the Torah, G-d says that the Jewish People will be to Him a kingdom of Kohanim, a kingdom of priests. In this light we can view the above verse as addressing the entire Jewish People, charging all adults regarding the mitzvah to educate their children.

The Hebrew word used here for “say” is explained by the Rabbis to indicate speaking mildly, as opposed to speaking harshly. Here is a valuable lesson for effective education in today’s times for instilling in our youth a love and appreciation for Torah and mitzvot. We must speak softly and with love. If the children feel that our heart is invested, then they will also invest theirs. This was in fact the method of Aharon Hakohen.

We find in the Torah that students are called “children,” as in the verse in Kings (II 2:3): “And the children (i.e. students) of the prophets went out.” Thus, the mention of “the children of Aharon” in the verse teaches us that we must be students of Aharon, following in his footsteps, loving peace and bringing people close to Torah in a warm and pleasant way.

The Mitzvah of Teaching Torah

A father is obligated to teach his son Torah. Beyond the study of the mitzvot, a father must also teach his children how to fulfill them. While still at a young age, children begin to perform mitzvot. Since human beings are creatures of habit, by helping children get used to doing mitzvot while they are young, by the time they become bar or bat mitzvah they will be familiar with exactly how to perform the mitzvot properly.

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