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Three types of students - Emor

Friday, 17 May, 2019 - 5:31 am

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As you may know, I study pedagogy, specializing in children with special needs. When we do practical training, we meet children with learning disabilities and challenging behaviors… We put great effort in teaching them and thank G-d, we usually succeed in helping them improve. This is not easy, whether we are dealing with learning disabilities or challenges with comportment and faith. Are there children for which nothing that can be done?

This week’s Parasha is called Emor, which means “tell”. According to our sages, this refers to three commandments that the adults must teach the children: 1) The prohibition against eating insects 2) The prohibition against consuming blood 3) The laws of sanctity (for instance the prohibition for Kohanim (priests) to be in contact with dead or cemeteries etc.)

What is so special about those three Mitzvot (commandments) that they require a specific injunction to the adults to teach it to the children? These three Mitzvot have characteristics that could discourage an educator from trying to teach them to the students. But the Torah reassures us that this type of education is possible.

The prohibition against eating insects doesn’t seem very difficult to observe, especially in the Western world. Most of the people do not even have an urge to eat them. It is disgusting to some. They get repulsed by the mere existence of an insect near them… even more so by the thought of eating them.

But if we have a student which is at the level of eating insects, we must not despair. We can and ought to teach them to do the correct thing.

The second prohibition, against consuming blood, was very difficult to observe when it was given, since it was the norm at the time to do so.

Many people think that when a person has already formed a habit and possesses it for a long time, it can not be broken. Is it really so? The Torah explains that with proper education and guidance, even a long-time habit can be changed.   

The third commandment that adults must teach the children concerns the laws of sanctity. These laws are neither logical nor understandable. Why are these actions forbidden? We cannot grasp it. We observe these laws purely out of faith in our Creator.

Are we capable of transmitting such abstract, elusive, supranatural concepts to our students? Many think that we can teach only what is comprehendible with our mind. The Torah tells us otherwise. Even those concepts can be taught.

In other words, there is never a reason to despair in matters of education, either regarding the subjects can be taught, the level of our students or even ourselves. Even if the behavior is immoral, has become a habit or regards matters of suprarational faith.  

Let us not be dejected. There is always room for learning, education and improving. We can make the difference.

Shabbat Shalom,


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