This week’s Torah portion, Emor, begins with a fundamental teaching about the education of children: “Speak to the priests…and say to them.” Our Sages explain that this repetition alludes to the mitzva (commandment) and obligation placed on adults to instruct their children in the proper path. Parents, the Torah insists, must provide the next generation with the proper Jewish education.
But why is such a fundamental concept not mentioned until now, halfway through the Torah? Would it not have been more appropriate for this mitzva to be given immediately after the revelation at Mt. Sinai? Furthermore, why is this mitzva mentioned in connection with the priests?
In explanation, bear in mind that the Torah portion studied during any given week has particular significance for that time of year. Its selection is not arbitrary; its teachings are especially applicable at that particular time. The commandment to educate the young must therefore apply most specifically now, during the month of Iyar, a month primarily characterized by counting the Omer.
The essential concept of Sefirat HaOmer, counting the Omer, is education. The Jews were educated and refined as they counted the days before the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, seven weeks after their exodus from Egypt. The release from bondage was, so to speak, the “birth” of the Jewish nation, which was then followed by a period in which they were educated for the great event to come.
This learning experience was not, however, in the fundamentals of Judaism; G-d had already said of Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, that they will keep the way of G-d.” This process of refinement, achieved through counting the Omer, refers to an even higher degree of perfection.
Furthermore, this type of education has a special connection to the service of the priests, for their job was to bring the Jews closer to G-d through the sacrifices brought in the Holy Temple. Because the priests raised the sanctity of the entire Jewish nation, it is to them that the commandment to instruct the young was addressed.
We learn from this that the duty to provide our children – and every Jewish child – with a proper Jewish education involves more than teaching them just the basics of Judaism. We must also endeavor to instill in them the desire for perfection in the service of G-d.
Today, as we stand on the threshold of Moshiach’s imminent arrival, this lesson is particularly apt, for it prepares us for that time when “the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, like the waters of the sea cover the earth.” Moshiach NOW!!!