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Teaching a Lesson

Written by Howard Jackson

A few years ago, a teacher at a Jewish primary school in Efrat was reciting Shacharit (morning prayers) with the children in her class. She noticed that one of the children was being particularly disruptive and not treating the Sidur (prayer book) or the prayers with any respect. She marched towards the desk, picked up the child’s Sidur and threw it on the floor! Her intentions were to show the class that this child’s behaviour was totally unacceptable and she certainly succeeded in shocking the children and teaching them a lesson. When some of the parents were told what the teacher had done, they complained to the headmaster that the teacher should be dismissed for setting a terrible example of throwing a Sidur on the floor. The headmaster suspended the teacher, and she appealed to Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the Chief Rabbi of Efrat. What do you think Rabbi Riskin ruled: that the school must dismiss the teacher or that she must be reinstated?Rabbi Riskin quoted from our Sidra, Ki Tisa: “As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moshe displayed anger, and threw down the Tablets that were in his hand, shattering them at the foot of the mountain” (Shemot 32:19). In his commentary to the last verse in the entire Torah (Devarim 34:12), Rashi explains that God agreed with Moshe’s decision to smash the Tablets. He cites the phrase “Asher SHibarta” = “which you broke” (Shemot 34:1) , interpreting it as “Y’asher Kochacha SheSHibarta” = “well done for having broken them!” (Gemara Shabbat 87a). When the people worshipped the golden calf, they demonstrated that the Tablets were of no value to them. Therefore, it was acceptable to smash them. Similarly, based on this and a number of other factors, Rabbi Riskin ruled that the primary school teacher must be reinstated.

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