“A child who knows how to wave the lulav is obligated in lulav”. These words, found in the Mishna (Sukkah 3:15) in today’s daf (Sukkah 42b), inform us that the duty of Chinuch (education) of children for the mitzvah of Arba Minim (Four Species) begins once a child has reached the age and stage when they are capable of waving the lulav in the manner that is performed by adults. This is because when we educate children towards mitzvah observance, we must not only teach them enthusiastically so that we foster within them an interest and love of mitzvot, but we must also teach them accurately so that we show them how to practically keep the mitzvot when they become adults.
Significantly, both these elements of fostering interest & love, and teaching towards technically correct performance are central to raising and educating a Jewish child – and they are required from both parents and teachers. However, not every Jewish adult necessarily experienced this ideal level of Jewish education in their youth. Some received the interest & love but not the technical knowledge. Others were taught the technical knowledge but didn’t experience the interest & love. And some others who didn’t have a Jewish education had neither. Given this, many Jewish adults often feel that they are playing ‘catch-up’.
Personally, while I’ve been teaching for over 25 years – first in Cheder (Sunday school) and then in High Schools – most of my teaching is now with young adults and older adults either in Midrashot and adult education centres or online in one-to-one learning sessions. Yet when I introduce an adult to a Torah idea or perspective which engages and inspires them or which helps them know how to observe a particular mitzvah, something magical occurs. This is because while they are now learning these ideas as an adult, the smile they have when being introduced to these ideas is the smile of a young person who has just been introduced to, or who has just discovered, a valuable wisdom or insight.
Today are many products that are marketed to try and help us stay young. But in my humble opinion one of best products available to help us stay young is education, because whenever I – and those I am privileged to teach – encounter a new idea, whether or not it was one that should have been taught in our younger years, it taps into and awakens a youthful spirit found deep inside which wants to learn, grow and discover new ideas.