Importance of an Education
Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9 )
Taking our studies seriously builds our character and can also open doors in the future. In this week's Torah portion, our forefather Jacob is described by our sages as being exceptionally studious, and from him we can learn the Torah's value of making a meaningful education a top priority.
In our story a kid discovers an unexpected benefit of taking her studies seriously.
Janet was about to start her homework when the phone rang.
"Hi Janet, it's me, Karen."
"Hi Karen, what's up?"
"Did you see the ad? For one day only, every sweater is 50% off at 'The Clothing Connection!' Let's zip over there right now and snap up the best ones before they're gone."
"Hey, that sounds great," Janet said excitedly "I'll meet you..." Suddenly the sight of the open book on the desk in front of her brought her back to earth. "But, I can't right now."
"I didn't do my homework yet." Janet could almost hear her friend's eyes rolling incredulously on the other side of the phone line.
"Look, Janet," Karen said, "I know you're into studying, but some things just take priority and this is a BIG sale. Anyway, I don't even remember us getting any special homework today."
"I know, but Mrs. Davis, the Hebrew teacher, said that if we spent an hour a day reviewing our Hebrew workbook, we would know the language well by..."
"Hey, wait a minute. That was way back at the beginning of the year. Nobody really took her seriously and actually did that. Did you?"
Janet didn't know whether to feel embarrassed or offended.
"Well, um, yeah I did. Why not? I thought it would be cool to know to know Hebrew. So I told myself I wouldn't go out or do anything until after I put in that hour. And you know, it's working. I'm really starting to understand it. So, if you can wait an hour, maybe..."
"Look, as far as I'm concerned, school and studying is just something you do when you have to - you know, for a test or something. If you want to hole yourself up like a bookworm and waste precious shopping time studying things you're never going to even need to know, that's your prerogative. But don't expect me to suffer because of it. My mom's driving there in ten minutes. If you want to come, be at my house by then, if not - not. Bye."
Janet felt her head buzzing along with the sound of the dial tone. Karen had really made her feel like a sucker. Maybe she was right and it didn't pay to spend so much time studying. She was about to close her book and run to catch the ride, when she told herself that if she stopped studying every time something came up, she'd never get anywhere, and that learning was important - even more important than big sales.
The next day in Hebrew class as they were waiting for the teacher to come in, Janet couldn't help noticing Karen's gorgeous new sweater. Maybe she really should have gone.
Just then, Mrs. Davis, their teacher walked in with a girl they'd never seen before.
"Class," she said, "this is my niece, Tamar, who just came from Israel." The bright-eyed girl gave a shy smile. "Her parents are quite famous personalities over there and she's here for only a short visit. Her mother asked me to choose one of you to join us on a grand tour and shopping spree in the city and a gourmet dinner - all expenses paid, of course."
As the teacher began listing off all the great places they would be going, all the kids' arms began shooting up like arrows to volunteer.
"Before I choose someone, however, I should emphasize," the teacher went on, "Tamar only speaks Hebrew, and her mother wants whoever comes to be able to communicate with her. But I'm sure any of you who kept up with your 'hour-a-day review' should have no trouble."
The kids began looking at each other uncomfortably as the raised arms, including Karen's in her new sweater, began falling back down as fast as they'd shot up - all except one, that is.
"Hmm, I see the choice won't be so hard after all," the teacher said, "Okay, Janet, meet me after class and I'll fill you in on all the details."
Janet had the time of her life and by staying in touch with Tamar and her family, walked through the door of a fascinating new world - a door she had opened up with the key of studying.
Q. How did Janet feel when Karen told her that she studied too much?
A. She felt that maybe her friend was right.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. Once she saw how her studying and learning new things really helped her, she knew she had been right for wanting to study.
Q. What life lesson do you think Janet and her friend learned from what happened?
A. Janet loved to learn and she took her studies seriously even when there was no test or anything else pushing her to do so. When her learning the Hebrew language opened the door for her to a great experience, both she and her friend, Karen saw that knowledge that we gain can come to help us in unexpected ways.
Q. What benefits do you think a person gains from developing good study habits?
A. Besides the obvious acquisition of information, a person also disciplines and trains their mind. The study habits we develop early in life, stick with us for better or worse and determine to a large extent whether we will reach our greatest potential.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. In your opinion, is it good to learn about everything and anything or are there some things we should better avoid?
A. A thirst and ability to learn is a great tool with an ability to lift us up, but like all tools, it must be used wisely. Learning about ideas and subjects that aren't appropriate and/or run contrary to healthy human values will bring us nothing positive and can really infuse us with negative energy.
Q. Our sages teach that although all study is valuable, Torah study is a qualitatively different experience. Why do you think this might be so?
A. While all study imparts information, Torah study is actually the study of an instruction manual of successful living. It is timeless wisdom of incredible depth, as those who seriously delve in it will testify. The mystics add that study of Torah brings a tremendous positive energy to the one studying it and the entire world.