July 19, 2024
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Facilitating the ‘Kimu v’Kiblu’ for Our Students

After the Jewish people fight off those who sought their destruction in the lands ruled by Achashverosh, the Megillah records, קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּל֣וּ הַיְּהוּדִים֩ (Esther 9:27), which Rava in Masechet Shabbat interprets as, קימו מה שקבלו כבר, the Jewish people, once again, undertaking and obligating themselves in the Torah that they accepted at Har Sinai long before the Purim story unfolded. By acknowledging that the Jewish people needed to recommit themselves to the Torah, Chazal are underscoring the notion that the Jewish people, during the period of the Purim story, were not so committed to the Torah so that there was a need for the קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּל֣וּ moment. The question is what caused the Jewish people to stray from God and His Torah during this time? I believe that part of the answer, though not the sole reason, was simply the lack of a connection to the Torah. With the Jewish people reeling from their recent exile from Israel and the recent destruction of the first Beit HaMikdash, they lacked connection points to the Torah. Without the land of Israel and the Beit HaMikdash, many of the mitzvot in the Torah were not acutely relevant. Without a clear leadership structure, the majority of Jews lacked a connection point to the Torah. One of the many lessons we must take away from the Purim story is that for Am Yisrael to survive and thrive, each Jew needs a strong point of connection to Torah in order to develop a relationship with the Torah.

If we want to ensure the long term spiritual success of the Jewish people, we must invest in the relationship of our children with the Torah. In our time, we are able to educate so many Jewish children in Jewish schools, something our ancestors could only imagine in a dream and we must learn the lesson from the Megillah of ensuring that we educate our children to have a personal relationship with the Torah. We must strive to create a personal relationship for our students with our Torah that is not dependent on a morah or a rebbe or a mashpia, because the moment that this figure disappears from the picture the relationship with the Torah is not quite as strong. In chinuch today it is important for us to create independent learners by focusing on teaching our students the skills to learn. We must strive to create and develop a curriculum that teaches our children how to learn Chumash, Navi, Mishna, Gemara, Halacha, etc. more independently. It is critical that this journey towards being independent Torah learners begins when our students are young. To use Chumash as an example, we must ensure that our students learn to break down words in the Torah into their parts, become familiar with common words and shorashim and become proficient with Biblical grammar.

I know, I know—the critique on this approach is that this is boring and uninspiring for the students. In response, I would say that nothing makes students feel better about themselves and nothing is more inspiring for students quite like when they realize they can do something by themselves. I try to pause my class when students have a moment like that and help them understand the progress they have made in becoming more independent. At the same time, we must create lessons that bring the stories and the mitzvot in the Torah, Navi or Gemara alive. We must find creative ways to have the students engage with the values we want them to learn. We should never miss an opportunity to teach our students about how the Torah informs us about how to approach life thousands of years after all these texts were written. However, that should not take away from continuing to nurture the skills of our students at the same time. Our lessons must be creative in weaving in continued skills practice so that we set our students up to have their own personal relationship with our most sacred texts.

If students can master skills in elementary school, they will enter middle school ready to truly engage in higher level thinking and understand what drove commentators like Rashi to write what they wrote.

The goal is ultimately to put these students on a trajectory to be lifelong learners whose relationship with our most sacred texts will not solely be based on that inspiring teacher or that rebbe who really “gets” him or her. Just to be clear, I do think that it is crucial that we have inspiring teachers who are excellent role models and who really create a meaningful student-teacher relationship. It is very healthy for the character development of a young Jew devoted to Torah and mitzvot to have positive Torah role models.

As we look forward to celebrating Purim, let us recall the lesson of the קִיְּמ֣וּ וְקִבְּל֣וּ moment that our ancestors had so many years ago. As we rededicate ourselves to strengthening our own personal connection to the Torah, let us set our children on a course towards their own deep personal connection to Hashem and His Torah.


Rabbi Nuriel Klinger is the director of Judaic Studies at Westchester Day School, overseeing the Limudei Kodesh curriculum and education in the elementary and middle school. In addition to his role at WDS, he is also the associate rabbi at the Young Israel of Scarsdale.

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