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Friday, 7 Cheshvan 5778 / October 27, 2017

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Talmud Torah - Chapter Two

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Talmud Torah - Chapter Two

1

Teachers of small children should be appointed in each and every land, in each and every region, and in each and every village.

If a village does not have children who study Torah, its populace is placed under a ban of ostracism until they employ teachers for the children. If they do not employ teachers, the village [deserves to be] destroyed, since the world exists only by virtue of the breath coming from the mouths of children who study Torah.

א

מושיבין מלמדי תינוקות בכל מדינה ומדינה ובכל פלך ופלך ובכל עיר ועיר וכל עיר שאין בה תינוקות של בית רבן מחרימין את אנשי העיר עד שמושיבין מלמדי תינוקות ואם לא הושיבו מחרימין את העיר שאין העולם מתקיים אלא בהבל פיהם של תינוקות של בית רבן:


Teachers of small children should be located in each and every land, in each and every region, and in each and every village. - Bava Batra 21a declares:

Remember that man for good! Yehoshua ben Gamla is his name. Were it not for him, the Torah would have been forgotten by the Jewish people.
Originally, a person who had a father would be instructed by him, while a person who had no father would not be instructed...
[Afterwards,] they instituted [the practice of] employing teachers of young children in Jerusalem [as implied by the verse]: "From Zion shall go forth the Torah."
Nevertheless, whoever had a father would be taken [to Jerusalem], while one who did not have a father would not be taken. [Therefore,] they instituted [the practice of] employing teachers in every region. They would begin study at sixteen or at seventeen.
However, if a [student's] teacher were angry with him, he would scoff at him and leave. [This situation persisted] until Yehoshua ben Gamla came and instituted [the practice of] employing teachers of young children in each and every land, in each and every region, and in each and every village. They would bring them [to the schools] at the age of six or seven.

This practice was continued in the subsequent generations. Even though the dispersion of the Jewish people and the subjugation to the gentile powers made the management of their communal affairs more difficult, throughout the ages we find references to the establishment of communal programs of education in both the codes of Jewish law and the chronicles of Jewish history. (See Ramah, Choshen Mishpat, 163:3; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:3.)

Originally, it was customary for the community to impose taxes to pay for the education of all the children, whether their parents were rich or poor. However, at present it has become customary for each parent to pay for his own child's education. However, if he lacks the financial means to do so, the community is obligated to accept this burden.

If a village does not have children who study Torah, the city's populace is placed under a ban of ostracism - See Chapter 7, Halachah 5 for a precise definition of this term.

until they employ teachers for the children. If - these measures do not motivate the inhabitants to change their ways and....

they do not employ teachers, the city [deserves to] be destroyed - The Rambam's statements are based on Shabbat 119b. Though our text of that passage differs slightly from the statements here, in the various commentaries and codes (e.g., the She'eltot of Rabbenu Achai Gaon, the Halachot of Rabbenu Yitzchak Alfasi), we find various versions of that passage. Hence, it is possible to assume that the Rambam's statements are a quote from his text of the Talmud.

for the world exists only by virtue of the breath coming from the mouths of children who study Torah. - for their breath is not tainted by sin (Shabbat, ibid.). Based on the latter statement, some authorities require the community to support children's study only until they reach bar-mitzvah, since afterwards they no longer possess this quality.

2

Children should be brought to study [under a teacher's instruction] at the age of six or seven, according to the child's health and build. Below the age of six, he should not be brought [to a teacher].

A teacher may employ corporal punishment to cast fear upon [the students]. However, he should not beat them cruelly, like an enemy. Therefore, he should not beat them with a rod or a staff, but rather with a small strap.

[The teacher] should sit and instruct them the entire day and for a portion of the night, to train them to study during the day and night. The children should not neglect [their studies] at all, except at the end of the day on the eve of the Sabbaths and festivals and on the festivals themselves. On the Sabbath, they should not begin new material. However, they should review what was learned already.

The children should never be interrupted from their studies, even for the building of the Temple.

ב

מכניסין את התינוקות להתלמד כבן שש כבן שבע לפי כח הבן ובנין גופו ופחות מבן שש אין מכניסים אותו ומכה אותן המלמד להטיל עליהם אימה ואינו מכה אותם מכת אויב מכת אכזרי לפיכך לא יכה אותם בשוטים ולא במקלות אלא ברצועה קטנה ויושב ומלמדן כל היום כולו ומקצת מן הלילה כדי לחנכן ללמוד ביום ובלילה ולא יבטלו התינוקות כלל חוץ מערבי שבתות וימים טובים בסוף הימים ובימים טובים אבל בשבת אין קורין בתחלה אבל שונין בראשון ואין מבטלין התינוקות ואפילו לבנין בית המקדש:

Children should be brought to study [under a teacher's instruction] - As mentioned in Chapter 1, Halachah 6 and the commentary on it, even before a child reached that age his father would teach him particular verses from the Torah.

at the age of six or seven - Note the passage from Bava Batra quoted in the previous halachah and the commentary on Chapter 1, Halachah 6.

according to the child's health and build. - This would determine when he would be able to begin the long and rigorous study program described in this halachah.

Below the age of six, he should not be brought [to a teacher]. - for he will not be able to absorb his studies (Bava Batra, ibid.).

At present, it is customary to send children to school at much earlier ages. They are not subjected to such a rigorous schedule and much of the time is devoted to activities other than actual study. Nevertheless, their presence in school is important to develop their character and commitment to Jewish values.

A teacher may employ corporal punishment to cast fear upon [the students]. - The advice that Proverbs 13:24 gives a father: "He that spares the rod, hates his son," also applies to a teacher. Indeed, Makkot 8a equates a teacher to a father in this respect.

Makkot 22b relates that Zechariah 13:6, "What are these wounds?...Those which I was wounded in the house of my beloved," refers to the beatings administered to school children.

See also Chapter 3, Halachah 12 and Chapter 4, Halachah 5.

However, he should not beat them cruelly, like an enemy. - Note the parallel of this expression to Jeremiah 30:14. Note also Chapter 4, Halachot 4-5, which recommend restraint and patience on the teacher's part.

Therefore, he should not beat them with a rod or a staff, but rather with a small strap. - Bava Batra (ibid.) relates that Rav instructed Rav Shmuel bar Shilat (a well known teacher of children):

When you beat a child, beat him only with a sandal strap. If [it motivates him] to study, then he will study. If he does not study, let him be in the company of the others.

From Rav's words, we can infer that corporal punishment may be employed to try to motivate a student to be more attentive. However, if it does not prove to be a successful tool, it should not be used further, lest it create a permanent aversion to Torah study.

[The teacher] should sit and instruct them the entire day and for a portion of the night, to train them to study during the day and night. - So that as adults, they will be accustomed to fulfilling the obligation mentioned in Chapter 1, Halachah 8.

The children should not neglect [their studies] at all, except at the end of the day on the eve of the Sabbaths and festivals - i.e., they should study on the mornings of these days, but not in the afternoons.

The commentaries have questioned the source for the Rambam's statements. Some have pointed to Sukkah 28a, which praises Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai for never leaving the house of study except on the eve of Pesach and the eve of Yom Kippur. Similarly, Pesachim 109a applies such praise to Rabbi Akiva. However, it is difficult to say that these are the sources for the Rambam's statements. Firstly, the passages refer to adults and not to children. Also, the fact that these passages cite the behavior of these Sages as worthy of praise seems to imply that it was exceptional and not the rule followed by most.

and on the festivals themselves. - for study might disturb a child's conception of the air of rejoicing and celebration that must accompany the festivals. It must be noted that the Rambam suggests that adults use some of their time on the festivals to study (Hilchot Sh'vitat Yom Tov 6:19).

On the Sabbath - They should not cease their studies. Nevertheless...

they should not begin new material - for grasping it may involve difficulty and strain, which should be avoided on the Sabbath. (See Nedarim 37a.)

However, they should review what was learned already. - for this does not involve tremendous strain.

The children should never be interrupted from their studies, even for the building of the Temple. - Shabbat 119b makes this statement in the context of its description of the great merit of the children's study, as mentioned in the previous halachah. Indeed, this appears to be the Rambam's logic in the entire halachah. Since children's study is so important, no unnecessary interruptions should be made.

This rigorous schedule of study is not followed today. Among the reasons given are the different goals for Torah study at present from those in the previous generations, as described in the commentary on Chapter 1, Halachah 12. Alternatively, if today youth were subjected to such a schedule, they might rebel and no value would come of it.

3

A teacher of children who leaves the children and goes out, or [remains] with them but performs other work, or is lazy in their instruction, is included in [the admonition (Jeremiah 48:10)]: "Cursed be he who performs God's work deceitfully.” Therefore, it is only proper to select a teacher who is God-fearing, teaches them at a fast pace, and instructs them carefully.

ג

מלמד התינוקות שהוא מניח התינוקות ויוצא או שהוא עושה מלאכה אחרת עמהן או שהוא מתרשל בלימודן הרי זה בכלל ארור עושה מלאכת ה' רמיה לפיכך אין ראוי להושיב מלמד אלא בעל יראה מהיר לקרות ולדקדק:

A teacher of children who leaves the children and goes out - Bava Batra 8b relates that Rav once found Rav Shmuel bar Shilat strolling in a garden. He reproved him: "Have you abandoned your faithfulness?"

Rav Shmuel answered him: "You haven't seen me [strolling like this] for thirteen years. Furthermore, even now I am thinking about them."

or [remains] with them but performs other work - The commentaries have explained the source for this halachah as follows:

The Jerusalem Talmud (D'mai 7:3) relates that Rabbi Yochanan encountered a teacher who looked emaciated. When the Sage enquired about him, his colleagues explained that he fasted. Rabbi Yochanan was very critical: "If a normal hired worker is forbidden to undergo penances lest he not produce as much as desired, how much more so does this apply to someone doing God's work."

Accordingly, since we find that a person hired to do one job should not perform another at the same time (Tosefta, Bava Metzia 4:7), it can be assumed that a teacher should refrain from doing so.

or is lazy in their instruction - As is obvious from Hilchot S'chirut 10:7, this includes two elements:
a) one who did not instruct the students; or
b) one who erred in their instruction.

is included in [the admonition]: "Cursed be he who performs God's work deceitfully" [Jeremiah 48:10]. Therefore, it is only proper to select a teacher who is God-fearing, teaches them at a fast pace - In his commentary on Halachah 6, the Kessef Mishneh interprets mahir as one who teaches a large quantity of material. In his commentary on Psalms 45:2, Rav Sa'adiah Gaon translates that word as "expert."

and instructs them carefully. - Bava Batra 21a-b emphasizes the importance of precise study by relating the following story:

After Yoav returned from slaying all the males of Edom (II Samuel 11:16), King David asked him to explain his actions. He replied: "Doesn't Deuteronomy 25:19 state 'Wipe out all the males (zachor) of Amalek?’“

David told him: "You are mistaken; the verse reads 'Wipe out the memory (zecher) of Amalek.’“

Yoav told him: "I learned zachor."

Later, Yoav sought out his teacher and chastised him severely for his carelessness.

4

A man who is unmarried should not teach children, because of the mothers who visit the children. No woman should teach children, because of the fathers who visit the children.

ד

ומי שאין לו אשה לא ילמד תינוקות מפני אמותיהם הבאות אצל בניהם וכל אשה לא תלמד תינוקות מפני אבותיהם שהם באים אצל הבנים:

A man who is unmarried - However, a married man may teach even if his wife is not living with him at present (Maggid Mishneh, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 22:13). Other authorities, based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 4:11, prohibit a man from teaching children if his wife is not in the same city.

should not teach children, because of the mothers who visit the children. - "lest he be aroused by women" (Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, ibid.).

No woman - Even if she is married (Kessef Mishneh)

should teach children, because of the fathers who visit the children. - lest they transgress the prohibition against yichud (being alone in a private place with someone of the other sex, Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, loc. cit.).

Some authorities maintain that these prohibitions apply only to the classrooms of previous generations, which were often private and quite secluded. In contrast, they maintain that no prohibition exists in today's large schools. However, it is questionable if that conclusion can be reached in view of the text of Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah.

5

[A maximum of] 25 students should study under one teacher. If there are more than 25, but fewer than 40, an assistant should be appointed to help him in their instruction. If there are more than forty students, two teachers should be appointed.

ה

עשרים וחמשה תינוקות למדים אצל מלמד אחד היו יותר על עשרים וחמשה עד ארבעים מושיבין עמו אחר לסייעו בלימודם היו יותר על ארבעים מעמידין להם שני מלמדי תינוקות:

[A maximum of] 25 students should study under one teacher. If there are more than 25, but fewer than 40, an assistant - Note the commentary of the Nimukei Yosef on Bava Batra 21a, which resolves the apparent contradiction between the Rambam's decision and that passage. Rabbenu Asher interprets that passage differently.

is appointed to help him in their instruction. - Rashi (Bava Batra, ibid.) states that the assistant would listen to the verses read by the teacher, and then lead the children in their repetition.

If there are more than forty students - the class should be divided and...

two teachers are appointed. - Two conclusions can be derived from these statements:
a) the maximum class size desired;
b) the minimum service which a community is required to afford its children.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:3) states that the above applies only to instruction in the Written Law. Instruction in the more complicated realms of study requires even smaller classes. However, a parent cannot demand that such instruction be provided from communal funds.

As explained in the commentary on Halachot 1:12, 2:2, today the goals of study differ from those of the previous generations. On that basis, some schoolmasters excuse their willingness to exceed the limits on the teacher-student ratio mentioned here. Others state that they would like to establish such a ratio, but financial pressures prevent them from doing so.

6

A child may be transferred from one teacher to another teacher, who is capable of teaching him at a faster pace, whether with regard to the Written Law itself or grammar. This applies when both are located in the same city and there is not a river between them. However, a child should not be forced to travel from city to city, or even from one side of the river to the other in the same city, unless there is a strong bridge, which is not likely to fall readily, over the river.

ו

מוליכין את הקטן ממלמד למלמד אחר שהוא מהיר ממנו בין במקרא בין בדקדוק במה דברים אמורים כשהיו שניהם בעיר אחת ולא היה הנהר מפסיק ביניהם אבל מעיר לעיר או מצד הנהר לצדו אפילו באותה העיר אין מוליכין את הקטן אלא אם כן היה בנין בריא על גבי הנהר בנין שאינו ראוי ליפול במהרה:

A child may be transferred from one teacher to another teacher, who is capable of teaching him at a faster pace - Note the commentary on Halachah 4 for a definition of the word mahir.

whether with regard to the Written Law itself or grammar. - In the Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Karo mentions the passage from Bava Batra 21a, which questions which is preferable: a teacher who teaches the students at a rapid pace, or one who instructs them more precisely, but at a slower speed. In the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 245:19), he concludes that it is preferable to take the latter teacher. Errors which children learn become permanent elements of their thinking processes as mentioned in the commentary to Halachah 3.

This applies when both are located in the same city - The Lechem Mishneh states that the Rambam derives this concept from Bava Batra (ibid.), which states:

From the time of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla, a child was not transferred from city to city, but he would be transferred from synagogue to synagogue...

The Rambam interprets that statement to mean that once the practice of employing qualified teachers in each community was instituted, there was no longer a need to transfer a child from his home town to another city. However, within his city itself, he could be transferred from one house of study to another if there was adequate reason.

and there is not a river between them. However, a child should not be forced to travel from city to city - because of the difficulty involved in the journey

or even from one side of the river to the other in the same city, - because of the danger involved.

unless there is a strong bridge, which is not likely to fall readily, over the river.

7

If a person [whose house opens] to an alleyway [to which other houses open] - or even one [whose house opens] to a courtyard [to which other houses open] - desires to become a teacher of children, his neighbors may not protest against his decision.

Similarly, should one teacher of children come and open a schoolroom next to the place [where] a colleague [was teaching], so that other children will come to him or so that the children [studying under his] colleague shall come to him, his colleague may not lodge a protest against him, as [Isaiah 42:21 states]: "God desired, for the sake of His righteousness, to make the Torah great and glorious."

ז

אחד מבני מבוי שביקש להעשות מלמד אפילו אחד מבני החצר אין יכולין שכניו למחות בידו וכן מלמד תינוקות שבא חבירו ופתח בית ללמד תינוקות בצדו כדי שיבואו תינוקות אחרים לו או כדי שיבואו מתינוקות של זה אצל זה אינו יכול למחות בידו שנאמר ה' חפץ למען צדקו יגדיל תורה ויאדיר:

If a person [whose house opens] to an alleyway [to which other houses open] - or even one [whose house opens] to a courtyard [to which other houses open] - desires to become a teacher of children, his neighbors may not protest against his decision. - In Hilchot Sh'chenim 6:8, 11, the Rambam mentions certain restrictions which the owners of houses which open to a common alley can impose on each other - e.g., one may not open a tailor shop or leather works, because of the inconvenience and discomfort which might be caused.

Though the opening of a schoolroom may also cause discomfort, because the parents will frequently visit and the children may make noise, the study of Torah is important enough to override these considerations.

Similarly, should one teacher of children come and open a schoolroom next to the place [where] a colleague [was teaching], so that other children will come to him or so that the children [studying under his] colleague shall come to him, his colleague may not lodge a protest against him - though such a practice would not be allowed in any other profession [if the new competitor came from a different country (see Hilchot Sh'chenim 6:8)], an exception is made regarding teaching Torah because...

as [Isaiah 42:21 states]: "God desired, for the sake of His righteousness, to make the Torah great and glorious" - Bava Batra 21a, the source for this halachah, does not quote this verse, but rather explains: "the envy of the teachers will increase knowledge."

The Yad Malachi explains that the Rambam frequently substitutes a different verse or explanation for the one quoted by the Talmud if he feels that his choice is more explanatory. However, the advantage of the verse chosen by the Rambam over the reason given by the Talmud requires explanation.

This law has two dimensions: one relevant to the laws governing the consideration neighbors must afford each other and the possibility of competition between them, and one relevant to the laws of Torah study. The Talmudic passage cited above deals primarily with the rights of neighbors. Thus, it explains to a person who might feel that a colleague has overstepped his rights that he, himself, will benefit, because the spirit of competition will motivate him to increase his own Torah knowledge.

In contrast, in these halachot the Rambam deals primarily with the importance of Torah study. Hence, he quotes a verse which emphasizes how important the increase of Torah study is (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. VI, p. 299).

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