Saturday, August 18, 2012

Maimonides:  Regarding teaching duties

"It is, however, the father's duty to teach his young son Torah, as it is written: "You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them" (Deuteronomy 11:19).  A woman is under no obligation to teach her son, since the duty of teaching applies only to one whose duty it is to learn.

Just as it is a man's duty to teach his son, so it is his duty to teach his grandson, as it is written: "Make them known to your children and your children's children" (4:9).  This obligation does not refer only to one's son and grandson, but it is a duty resting upon every Jewish scholar to teach all those who seek to be his students, even though they are not his own children, for it is written ..."

This subject has been on my mind recently.  In modern evangelical churches, the parents entrust the teaching to someone else, and frequently this someone else is a 20ish year old.  Certainly I am glad to see the young enthusiastic to teach - nor would I want to discourage them - but it doesn't seem too sensible that the bulk of the teaching and spiritual leadership to the next generation is done by those under 30.


Max Coutinho said...


Now you reminded me of the Romans: according to them, humans were teenagers until they were 36 (a tradition that, more or less, still lives and kicks in Italy); meaning that they were not fit to teach, but to learn only.

As for Maimonides comment: when he takes the responsibility off women to teach her children; does he mean it as a compliment or as a depreciation? I, personally, view it as a compliment; but what do you think?

I, too, think that it is up to the parents, and grandparents, to teach children about the Torah (or Bible, or even the Quran) for a number of reasons (besides the obvious one: God's commandment).

Excellent article!

Looney said...

Maimonides is writing this much like a legal code. From my impression, it probably hasn't crossed Maimonides mind as to whether or not this might be intended as a compliment or deprecation. Of course he was living as a Jew in a Islamic culture during the middle ages, so one must consider how they would view their treatment relative to the cultures surrounding them.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney, maybe (and your reasoning makes sense) but from what I've gathered so far, Jewish communities treat their women in a very respectful fashion (and they always have had rights that many Christian women didn't in the past) - although external forces try to convince us of otherwise.