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    Teachers on strike – Vayyechi

    Weeks and weeks of education were lost in Israel recently because of a teachers’ strike.

    Whether it is halachically permissible for teachers to strike is a moot point. For teachers of Torah it is probably forbidden unless there is absolutely no other way of drawing attention to grievances.

    But these notes address a different issue – that of whether children can still manage to be educated if they are not in school.

    There is an indication of an answer in this week’s sidra and in the haftarah. Both describe the bedside scene in which a dying father bestows a last blessing on his children.

    The drama and poignancy are almost unbearable, but there is a question which not many readers of the story ask. Can a dying parent expect his/her children to maintain the family values unless they have instilled those values through the years that preceded this moment?

    In olden days parents who worked on training their children in Judaism had nothing to regret in later years. How did they train the children? In two ways – informal and formal.

    The informal education was the way of life that was lived in the home. Jewishness was all around the child. No Jewish occasion failed to involve the child. No Jewish practice went unmarked.

    When the child went to school for formal education, the teacher too provided an atmosphere of Jewish observance.

    The alphabet, written in honey on the child’s slate, was licked off by the pupil to get a taste of the sweetness of Torah. The teacher would take the class for a walk beside a stream, to show how the Torah, like water, carries a person along towards the Divine blessing.

    If in those days the school went on strike – a highly unlikely event – the child would naturally follow the impetus to personal study because of the inspiration of the educational atmosphere, and the parents would see to it that the home never lost its Jewish taste and savour.

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