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    Educating the young – Emor

    emorThe portion commences with a command, “Speak to the priests and say to them” (Lev. 21:1).

    Why the doubled verb, “speak… and say”? Rashi tells us that it means telling the elders to explain to their young people. An interesting educational principle – on-the-spot training, working with the experts to pick up their skills as you go, gaining work experience.

    There is a value in theoretical study, but an even greater value in being guided and mentored by the people who have skills honed over many years. With the kohanim there were countless practical skills needed in working in the sanctuary, and this applies to many other areas of Jewish life.

    Even today, if you want to be a sofer, a shochet, a mohel, certainly a chazan, you need to work beside and assist the acknowledged experts. What about a scholar? Here too you need work experience (called in Hebrew shimmush) – seeing how the learned person handles the ideas, phrases and rationale of the material, how they explain it, how they respond to queries, how they take note not only of the problem and its ramifications but of the questioner too.

    That’s why in the olden days when a woman brought a chicken to the rabbi, fearing it had some defect, the rabbi wanted to know who the woman was too. If she were poor and unable to afford the loss of the chicken, he would work all the harder to find a way to declare the chicken kosher.

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