One of my favorite lines from the hours of Torah Live videos I have watched is when Rabbi Siddur puts these words into the mouths of kids in school: “What do I need to know this for? I don’t have an ox and I’m not planning on buying one.” This question represents the argument that many topics in Torah seem not to have practical implications in our lives.
This is a question that challenges both educators and parents, as we try to articulate the importance of Torah learning to our students and children. We know it’s important to learn Torah, we can feel the effect it has on our daily lives and we experience real joy and satisfaction when we enrich our knowledge. But can we explain this to the children in our lives?
Learning Torah is the strongest way of connecting with Hashem, appreciating His wisdom and accepting His role in our lives. Rabbi Siddur explains this in a clear, easy to understand way in the Learning Torah Matters video. He demonstrates how the more you learn, the more you become like Hashem, and the better you treat people and live your life in an optimal way.
Sometimes the Jewish education we give our children focuses so much on comprehending texts that the meaning behind them gets shunted aside. We forget to make the learning relevant to kids’ lives and we neglect to show them why they should care about a particular halacha or commentary on a pasuk. Sometimes we get so excited about the concepts we are teaching, that we forget that the relevance isn’t obvious to the kids we’re talking to.
Let’s take a step back.
Let’s start with that age-old question: “What do I need to know this for?” Let’s not take it for granted that kids know why they need this information. Any halacha, gemara or midrash we teach should be taught with relevance in mind. Our children and students should always be told why this matters, how it will affect their lives and what they can take away from it.
Let’s remember to focus on the “why” and not just the “what” and the “how.”