Planting heaven: Chapters of life and education – conversations with Rabbi David Fox (2016)

As a Jewish educator I love reading books that reflect on education, and specifically, Jewish education. However, while there are many books that concern themselves with Jewish education and the love of Torah as our guide for life, few capture the real concerns of Jewish educators or the deep love they have for teaching Torah and guiding their students.

לנטוע שמים (literally, ‘Planting Heaven’) is such a book. This magnificent work describes the educational personality and educational philosophy of Rabbi David Fox who was a Ram at Netiv Meir in Bayit Vagan for 20 years and has since initiated many other educational programmes and institutions in the country.

Born in Chicago in 1931, Rabbi Fox made Aliyah in 1957 and he has continued to teach ever since, with former students speaking of him with a unique blend of awe, respect and affection. Though his professional life has centered around Religious Zionist institutions, Rabbi Fox’s mentors were Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and Rabbi Chaim Kriesworth, and he has often served as a bridge of ideas between different Jewish worlds.

לנטוע שמים is made up of ten chapters which are adaptations of 10 different conversations with Rabbi Fox with chapter titled including ‘You must learn from everyone’ , ‘Prayer’ and ‘Education and Instruction: The power of a story’, with each chapter containing profound and practical insights and anecdotes from a highly accomplished and deeply thoughtful Jewish educator.

In the introduction to this work, a former student of Netiv Meir (which, importantly for this story, is a residential school) relates that ‘when I arrived late to class, Rabbi Fox would not ask me ‘Have you davened?’. Instead, he would ask ‘Have you eaten yet? If not, first eat and then come to class.’ For this student, by phrasing himself this way Rabbi Fox conveyed that he cared even more about the personal welfare of this students than their spiritual obligations, and in doing so, they understood that he was someone whose focus wasn’t what he taught, but those whom he taught.

To purchase a copy of this book, click  here.