Study With Childlike Wonder

Friday, 23 July, 2021 - 12:08 pm

Did you know that some of the most prominent codifiers of Jewish law present the Mitzvah of Torah study within the context of an obligation to teach children? In fact the verse they cite to present the Mitzvah of Torah study (from the Shema in this week’s Parsha) is: “And you teach them to your children and speak of them…”

What about the obligation of adults to study? Why doesn’t the Torah present that as a separate concept? Why is an adult’s requirement to learn Torah absorbed within the requirement to teach a child?

(My brother Rabbi Yochanan wrote an article addressing this from a slightly different angle. It can be read here:

This past week, we wrapped up our JLI course, “The Scoop on Resurrection” with a lesson that focused on the notion that sometimes we have erase an existing mindset to reach unparalleled success. We read about a study done by Dr. George Land as an outgrowth of a project that he did for NASA – called the Creativity Test. He applied this test, which was used to identify that highest level creative geniuses, to children of varying ages, and later to random adults. The results were astounding. The proportion of people who scored at the “Genius Level”, were:

Amongst 5 year olds: 98%

Amongst 10 year olds: 30%

Amongst 15 year olds: 12%

Same test given to 280,000 adults (average age of 31): 2%.

So are all five year olds essentially creative geniuses who become numbskulls by the time they are 30?

The answer is that creativity is quashed by acquired pre-conceived notions, past assumptions, arcane and unquestioned systems, and cultural and societal norms. In other words, the very rules that we put in place (mostly valuable and productive) are exactly the cause for our drop in creativity. In short, we are getting in our own way. Our egos, our perceptions of our place in society, how we think others are viewing us, and the like, are preventing us from revolutionary intellectual development.

Young children are not yet encumbered by these issues. They haven’t yet been corrupted by all of the aforementioned issues that plague us adults. When a child studies Torah it is simply through the lens that this is G-d’s word and nothing else matters. By introducing the general Mitzvah of Torah study within the context of children’s education, the Torah is instructing us, that true success in Torah study is achieved when we approach the Torah with childlike wonder.

This helps us avoid distractions like, “How does this fit with societal norms? Doesn’t this clash with what I’ve studied in another discipline?” Then the power of connection with Hashem with which Torah affords us, can be experienced in an optimal manner.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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