Torah For Today: Schools reopening

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Torah For Today: Schools reopening

Rabbi Shauly Strom takes a topical issue and offers an Orthodox Jewish response

What it might look like when we all go back to school
What it might look like when we all go back to school

Of the many memes circulating at the moment (generated by an ingenious cohort of adolescence, all stuck at home with limited opportunities to express their creativity), one shows a class of pensioners sitting at their school desks with the tongue-in-cheek tagline: “When schools reopen after corona.”

Although amusing, as someone who has had my three schoolchildren home from school on and off this past year, I can relate deeply to the despair faced by so many parents of young (and older) children. 

Finally, schools will begin to reopen next week. So, what does the Torah say about this?

In Judaism, the centres for education are the cornerstones of society. Perhaps one of the most profound ideas, Judaism teaches, is about the emphasis placed on sustaining educational institutions. 

According to Halacha, a community must invest foremost in an educational institution when strapped for funds before it can invest in a synagogue. 

The late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks relates how he received an invitation to lunch with the prime minister – but at the same time received an invitation to take part in the opening ceremony of a new Jewish school
in London. 

He writes that his resolve was to regretfully decline the prime minister’s invitation and open the school, giving his reasoning: “Governments sustain society, education sustains the world.” 

Rabbi Yehudah Ha-Nasi, an early Talmudic scholar, remarks: “Schoolchildren may not be made to neglect [their studies] even for the building of the Temple.” 

There is perhaps an interesting reason for this – the word chinuch, which means “education”, comes from the same word that means “dedication”. Jewish education must be one of dedication. 

As we thankfully return our children to the caring hands of our communities’ teachers, let us express our thanks that schooling can resume and we can continue handing over the baton of Jewish identity to the next generation with the same dedication that we have always been taught.

  •  Rabbi Shauly Strom is Aish UK director of northern campuses

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