June 25, 2024
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Two Educational Tools to Use During Coronavirus

These are not ordinary days. Not for students, not for parents nor for teachers. In times of hardship, we should return to our base, to the source, to the parsha. The weekly portions, even when not read in shul, are a reservoir of power and strength, especially during this difficult time.

Here are two principles that Parshat Pinchas teaches us, in preparation for a particularly challenging summer ahead:

Maintaining a Connection Between The Land of Israel and the Diaspora

This week’s parsha tells us about “half of Menashe.” Why is this tribe divided? This refers to half of the Menashe tribe, who went to live in East Jordan along with the tribes of Reuven and Gad. At first, only Reuven and Gad wanted to live there, but Moshe sent this half of Menashe with them as well. Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, known as the Netziv, explains that Moshe sent half of Menashe to join the other two tribes as emissaries, as a mission of life. In the words of the Netziv, they were sent there “so there would be there bnei Torah.” They were there to make sure that Reuven and Gad’s geographical distance from Jerusalem would not be a spiritual distance as well, so it would not be a community that was too remote and severed. Perhaps this is also the reason why only half of the tribe of Menashe was sent. Half stayed closer so that familial social ties meant that the Menashe clan itself would not be confused and would also stay connected.

This is a job for us too––to always have half our heart in Israel, and half in the Diaspora, no matter where we live. We are brothers, one family, and we send physical emissaries, but also use technological means to constantly feel Jerusalem, Israel and beyond so as not to forget our millions of brothers and sisters outside of Israel.

Education = Experience

The parsha tells of the daughters of Tzlofchad, five women who applied for a portion of land in Israel and were a symbol of optimism and faith. The commentators explain that all women of that generation were happy and wanted to enter the Land, while almost all the men were pessimistic and discouraged from doing so. This was a recurring phenomenon. During the Exodus from Egypt, the righteous women led us to salvation and drove the men to do so as well. At the time of the sin of the Golden Calf the men led, while at the time of building the mishkan, it was the women who volunteered first. In the sin of the spies, most of the men sinned while the women wanted to go on and enter the Land, and in the Korach dispute, there were also women who tried to stop the difficult controversy.

Rabbi Moshe Zvi Neria learns from this a tremendous educational principle. Moshe and Aharon educated the men and Miriam educated the women––notice the difference.

“Miriam succeeded in her educational work more than her two brothers, Moshe and Aharon, because of the secret of educational success…a personal connection with those being educated. After all, we are told that Miriam sings and dances with the women. ‘Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her in dance with timbrels’ (Shemot 15:20). This happened not only during the Exodus but throughout the wanderings of the wilderness. Miriam used to sing and dance with them, forge personal experiences with them, make close
contact.”

Education, Rabbi Neria explains, is not only taught through lectures and lessons. Education is also based on experiences, memories, melodies and personal attitudes. Rabbi Neria himself became known for his songs and melodies. This is an extraordinary time in the education system––we had far fewer lessons and tests, we hardly met in the classrooms. But this is the opportunity to employ meaningful educational experiences, for life.

Have a healthy and happy summer.

By Sivan Rahav-Meir

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