Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Bo

This weeks Parsha has the statement “This month shall be for you the brginning of the months, it shall be for you the first  of the months of the year” (Shemos 12:2)

Now this seems a bit strange- Tishrei would seem to be the logical choice to count as the first month of the year, since it is the month in which the world was created.  If the first month was not going to be in Tishrei when the world was created, then surely it should have been in Sivan, when Bnei Yisrael received the Torah.  after all, don’t the Rishonim in their commentaries on Bereishis state that world was created for the Torah, so therefore the bringing of it into the world should surely be the pinnacle of creation and the point from which the year should be counted?  Nissan seems so arbitary- it represents the preparation for becoming the nation serving Hashem, rather than the actual realisation and start of our true relationship with Hashem.

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains this in Darash Moshe on this verse that we need to understand that without the Exodus and the events leading up to the receiving of the Torah are a combined entity.  Without the exodus from Egypt and the 49 days of preparation in which the Jews raised themselves from the spiritual low they had experienced in Egypt to the point where they could receive the Torah was as important as the the receiving of the Torah itself.  Since this preparation was as important as the actual receiving of the Torah, it is in Nissan when the Torah started to be given, and thus where we start the year from.

From this Rav Moshe derives an important lesson related to educating children:  “We should not wait until a child is old enough to learn to start teaching them proper behaviour and faith.  Good character traits should be imbued into children as early as possible so that when they need to act for themselves, such behaviour is ingrained- the preparation for living a life of Torah, mitzvos and good midos is this early childhood education, gained from an age long before formal education starts.”

The Jesuit maxim “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man” essentially makes the same point.  A person is molded for life by what they learn as a child.  Yet how many children receive the correct early childhood education?  I made this point before, when discussing intermarriage:  people somehow get embarrassed and feel it fanatical to alter their lifestyles in order to give their children opportunities to be mor einvolved in a Jewish community by living within one, going to Jewish day schools, socialising with their fellows.  Yes, its a topic I feel strongly about- early childhood education is essential, it provides a foundarion for later life on which everything else stands.  If the foundation is weak, then everything else will be at risk.  Parents will go to great effort to get their children into the “right” Kindergarten, the one with the best possible programme.  But how manyt look at the spiritual programme, the Jewish influence into the programme?  In many ways I would rather not know the answer to that, too depressing really- secular education is often seen as the all important factor, the secular preparation the only factor considered.  Can I say that I followed my own statement here?  Yep- I had a choice of two schools for my kids- one where my late grandfather had been the first principal and Yeshivah college.  My choice?  Yeshivah college- because of the limudei kodesh programme from the earliest age onwards.  While the school my grandfather built up has a strong zionist and Jewish identity, and its secular programme is amazingly strong, it does not have a strong limudei kodesh programme, and in the end, it was that factor that made up our minds.


January 27, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah

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