Rabbi Avi Weinstein

If A City Chooses Not To Support Educating Its Children, Then Bye Bye City!

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm

The passage from the Rambam which declares that “a city that does not assume responsibility for educating its children should be destroyed” needs to be unpacked a bit further. He actually is quoting directly from the Talmud emphasizing that he does not see this as a rhetorical exercise in hyperbole. It is a matter of law that not only appears in his legal code, but in subsequent authoratative Jewish codes of Law. Here is a fuller text of the Talmud from where the Rambam took this quotation.

Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 119b

Resh Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi: The world only exists because of the breath vapor of small school children.
Rav Papa said to Abayye: What about us?
He answered: The vapor that is tainted by sin is not the same as the vapor that does not have this stigma.
And Resh Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi: One does not cancel the studies for small school children even for the building of the Temple.
Resh Lakish said to Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi: This is what I have received from my ancestors, and there are those who said that he meant, from your (Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi’s) ancestors: Any town that does not sponsor instruction for school children should be destroyed!
Ravina said that the inhabitants should be excommunicated.

To view the passage and my commentary in its entirety, Click here.


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