Thursday, March 17, 2022

Teaching child a trade

 Sefer HaBris (2:12:10): I find the widespread practice of our generation - which is based on pride and arrogance - to be very disturbing. The issue is that the majority of our people have no interest in teaching a trade to their children. They say - with their hearts full of conceit - that a trade is debasing. They only want to be involved in commerce or being a peddler which they view as honorable and appropriate for them. However eventually when they are not successful in commerce because of their bad mazel … they end up lacking bread. Consequently they are involved in various sins just in order to obtain food. Thus our sages say that whoever doesn’t teach his son a trade is as if he teaches him to be a thief… Some are involved in fraud of various types, some actually become thieves and robbers. Some steal from Jews and other peoples and some profane G‑d’s name amongst the nations of the world by their contemptible activities. Consequently the reputation of the Jewish people is destroyed…The blame for this situation is on the parents who don’t teach their children a trade when they are young. Why should it be that the nations say that Jews are cheats and a debased people. Why should G‑d’s Torah be degraded because the Jews despise all forms of physical labor? I am even more angry with the talmidei chachomim who don’t want to teach their children a trade - but only Torah. They assume that their children will become rabbis and rabbinic judges. However most people never acquire the learning necessary to be a rabbinic leader and thus their children are destroyed from two directions. They end up becoming only teachers of children. However eventually there are more teachers than needed for the number of students. Therefore even as teachers they are not able to obtain an adequate living. Their families lack bread and clothing and they are not even able to teach adequately because of the pressure. Some end up in commerce and some travel far and wide giving private lessons. The result of all this is that they neglect their own families. Their children become bums because they grow up without a father and their mother is under constant stress. Some even travel to foreign countries where they fail to find students and therefore their wives and children die from hunger. Some travel to distant lands to become preachers or to collect money. Others write books which they collect money to publish. They travel far and wide and yet they don’t find the positions they seek nor the success they desire. Their families starve and they become public burdens. The blame for this situation is on the fathers who don’t want to teach their children a trade when they are young. I recognize, however, that the fathers do this for the sake of Heaven. They justify their stance by Kiddushin (82a): R’ Nehorai said that I will only teach my son Torah. The problem is they misunderstand this gemora because their evil inclination has clothed itself in the garb of piety. The Maharshal explains that the view of R’ Nehorai is not to avoid teaching one’s son anything other than Torah. This gemora can’t be taken literally since there are too many other explicit statements of our sages that say that a person should work and teach his son a trade. All R’ Nehorai is saying is that one should only make Torah the fixed structure of life while earning a living should always be viewed as secondary in importance.

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