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Parashat Pekudeh – At What Age Does Education Begin?

Parashat Pekudeh continues the Torah’s description of the Mishkan, its furnishings and the priestly garments, a project which was led by a man named Besalel. The Torah tells us that Besalel was the grandson of Hur, a leader who was killed during the tragic incident of Het Ha’egel (sin of the golden calf). When the people approached Hur and demanded that he make for them an idol, he refused, and he was eventually killed for his opposition.

Why was specifically Hur’s grandson chosen for the job of constructing the Mishkan?

The answer, perhaps, is that Besalel’s illustrious background of firm faith and courage enhanced the sanctity of the Mishkan. Besalel came from sacred stock, and this background helped infuse the Mishkan – his handiwork – with a greater level of Kedusha.

The Talmud tells that Rabbi Hiya credited himself with ensuring the perpetuation of Torah. He explained that he took some flaxseeds, planted them, and used the flax which grew to make a trap for deer. He then trapped a deer, fed its meat to the poor, and used its hide as parchment on which to write the Torah. Then he studied with five young students with these books. When Rabbi Yehuda Ha’nasi heard about Rabbi Hiya’s accomplishments, he exclaimed, “How great are the actions of Hiya!” Rabbi Hiya understood that the earlier in the process one is able to inject it with Kedusha, the greater an impact it will have. The inspiration given to these five children was drawn not merely from their experiences in school, but from the origins of this enterprise. Already the planting of the seeds for the trap for the animal from which the books were prepared was done with Kedusha. And this brought the level of Torah learning to an entirely different level. Just as Besalel’s righteous grandfather enhanced the sanctity of the Mishkan, similarly, the sacred origins of the books used by Rabbi Hiya’s students raised the level of Kedusha and inspiration which they received.

A father once asked a certain Rabbi at what age he needs to begin the process of his child’s Hinuch (education).

“The process should have begun many years ago,” the Rabbi replied. “Hinuch begins when the parents are in school.”

Of course, this is not to say that a parent who did not receive a proper Torah education no longer has the ability to properly educate his or her own children. It is never too late. But it does mean that our children’s education begins with our own spiritual growth and training. Building ourselves is a crucial component of our efforts to build our children. By enhancing one’s own level of Kedusha, he is able to enhance his children’s level of Kedusha and help reach great heights of spiritual achievement.