> Weekly Torah Portion > Parents & Kids > Family Parsha

Everyone Can Teach

Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Every one of us is a teacher. In this week's Torah portion (Ex. 35:34), God gives Betzalel the ability and mission to teach others his special crafts. So too, each of us knows valuable and useful ideas and skills we can share with others to help them - and become teachers, too!


In our story, some kids get a surprising lesson in who's a teacher.


"Nope, the teacher's definitely not here today," Laura grinned to her friend, Alison as they slid into their gray Formica-topped classroom desks.

"But how do you know?" Alison asked with excitement.

"Because her car wasn't in the parking lot - that's how."

Alison's eyes lit up. "So that means we're really going to have..."

"A substitute," Laura nodded. The two friends flashed each other knowing smiles. Not that their regular math teacher was so bad or anything, but it was always nice to have a day off - and that's what it would be, as there hadn't yet been the substitute born on the planet who could get their unruly class to actually learn anything when the teacher was out.

"I wonder who it is?" Alison asked. Her question was answered immediately as the classroom door opened and in walked a young woman whose face was lit up with a big smile.

"She won't be smiling for long," whispered Laura, rolling her eyes.

"Hello class, I'm Ms Jacobs. Mrs. Allen couldn't come today, so I'm..."

"Uh, teacher," Alison interrupted, with the wave of her hand.


"Like, everyone's really tired of learning, y'know, so maybe you don't even have to teach us today and we can just like, hang out?" The class broke into giggles and waited to see if this substitute was going to turn the same shade of red that the last one did.

"Hmm, not teaching you? Sounds good to me," she answered calmly. The class started cheering. "But," the substitute went on in a loud but steady voice that rose above the racket, "only on one condition."

"What's that?" a kid asked.

"I'll only agree not to teach you, if you agree to teach yourselves."

The class went quiet, not knowing what to make of the strange statement.

"Who volunteers first?" the sub asked. No one raised a hand. "How about you?" she said pointing to Alison, who now herself was starting to turn red.

"Sorry," the girl said, "I'm a student not a teacher - and besides, I don't know a thing about geometry." The class laughed.

"Who said anything about geometry? You can teach us about whatever you want," the woman said in a friendly way that made it clear she wasn't just trying to put Alison down or put her on the spot. "I'm sure there is something you can teach us. What are some things that you like to do?"

"Me? I dunno ... I guess I like to sing in plays and stuff," Alison shrugged.

"Great! So how about teaching us just one thing about singing."

"Seriously?" Alison asked.

The teacher nodded.

"Well ... um, to sing loud to an audience, but, you know, in a way that sounds good, you have to think like you're singing to the person farthest away in the room. Okay?"

"More than okay - that was something very interesting that I never knew. Thanks for teaching us. Who's next?"

This time one or two kids did raise their hand.

"Can I teach something about cooking?" one of them asked.


"It's not exactly about cooking, but if you burn something in a pot - it's much easier to clean if you soak it first with hot water."

"Great," the teacher smiled, "the way I cook, that piece of information will come in very handy. Who's next?"

One by one, kids started giving tips and lessons about pets, gardening, shopping - even one or two about geometry.

The bell rang, and for the first time in the class's history, the kids weren't rushing to leave.

"Hey, that was actually pretty good - you know, everyone being able to teach something." Laura said to Alison as they walked out the door.

"Yeah," she nodded. "I never would have believed it could actually be fun, being a teacher instead of having one."


Ages 3-5

Q. How did the kids feel at first when the substitute said she agreed not to teach?
A. They thought they were going to get the time off to do what they wanted.

Q. How did they feel afterwards?
A. They enjoyed having the chance to teach and learn from each other.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think the kids learned that day?
A. They hadn't realized that not only an 'official' teacher has something to teach people - but everyone does - including themselves.

Q. Why do you think the kids enjoyed themselves during the class?
A. Besides having a break from their regular schedule, they got the good feeling of realizing that they had worthwhile knowledge to share, and of sharing it.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. It is said that the best way to learn is to teach. How do you understand that idea?
A. To teach something properly, we have to first have it very clear and organized in our minds. Having to teach something also motivates us to work harder to understand it that we might have otherwise.

Q. Do you think that it is possible to learn from everybody?
A. There is no one who doesn't have something worthwhile to teach; if not from his knowledge, then from his behavior - even if it is teaching us how not to act.


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