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    Gifted students – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Does Judaism give special status to gifted pupils?

    A. Yes. Despite the saying, “Nine rabbis don’t make a minyan, but ten cobblers do”, Judaism accords special esteem to gifted students.

    True, some circles specially esteem the affluent – perhaps because the crises of the past century required many people to live on their wits and make their way in society without an educational background.

    It is said that “Rabbi” (Judah HaNasi, editor of the Mishnah) hayah mechabbed ashirim, “used to honour the affluent”, but that was because they are able to support and facilitate students and institutes of study.

    The Jewish hero-type is the learned person, and many halachic works ruled that the great scholars of the generation were exempted from many duties, even from paying community taxes.

    Classes and schools for gifted students were maintained in more or less every Jewish community, though this did not mean that education was denied to the less able student.

    One of our major modern problems is that some people who are very ordinary students do not recognise their limitations but vociferously claim exemptions, such as from Israeli military service.

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