Who would have thought that our Sages had to struggle to get their children to Religious School?!
A talmudic tale relates the story of Rav Huna’s struggle to get his son to study Torah with Rav Chisda. Yet, as the story goes, Rav Huna’s son complained to his dad that his Religious School teacher, Rav Chisda, was not teaching Torah. Huna’s son said that his teacher was talking only about worldly matters such as eating and drinking and the digestive system. Apparently, Rav Huna’s son thought that this tactic would get him out of Religious School…
Much to his son’s surprise, Rav Huna responded that the Torah teacher’s teaching was right on point! Study of worldly matters, and in particular of the physical world of God’s creatures, is just as much a part of our training to appreciate God’s greatness as is study of Torah!
Today, all too often, people are exclusively engrossed in either the study of Torah, or in the study of worldly matters. The message of the Talmud is that we should do our best to study both Torah and worldly matters in equal measure because God’s greatness is reflected in both. In fact, each of these two ostensibly separate realms is significantly enriched by our study of the other realm!
Our weekly Torah portion describes a ritual that was to be performed as the ancient Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land. The ritual involved studying the Torah and re-committing to it. At the conclusion of the ritual, large stones were covered with plaster and, on those stones, the Teaching of Torah would be clearly inscribed for all to see, day after day. This reminds us of the importance of continuing to study Torah throughout our lives. The talmudic story of Rav Huna and his son reminds us that study of Torah goes hand in hand with study of the world we live in. It also teaches us that Jewish parenting is no more of a challenge today than it was in ancient times…So, don’t give up. It is worth the effort to give our children the Jewish education they deserve!
Rabbi Gilah Dror