Once upon a time, the Jewish child would begin his Hebrew education with the Book of Vayikra, the section of the Chumash that we open this Shabbat. The sages said, "Let the pure ones (the little children) begin with things that are pure (the subjects of Sefer Vayikra)".
The principle of this method is commendable, and it was never as important as it is today, when in some countries, the schools have become centres of vulgarity, indecency and immorality – not to speak of the fact that in there are places where prejudice against other people is imparted to the little children in elementary schools.
Albert Einstein said in his autobiography, "Education is that which remains when one has forgotten all that he learned at school".
If a child begins his life with an immersion in love and respect it does not really matter that he later forgets the jussive grammar rules and the phenomenon of algebra.
ENDING THIS WEEK, BEGINNING NEXT WEEK
The rabbinic sages always saw a link between the weekly Torah readings.
They noticed that the reading this week says that if you have sinned against another person and robbed them, you must restore what you have taken. They also saw that next week the sidra commences, "This is the law of the burnt offering".
How are the two passages linked? According to the Midrash the rule is that only if you have performed the requirement of restoring stolen property have you the right to worship God and bring Him an offering.
Worship is only possible if (in the words of Psalm 24) you have clean hands and a pure heart. If you are guilty of sin, God is not interested in your prayer unless you have made peace with others. You can ask Him to support you, but you have to want Him on side…
Rabbi Dr Raymond AppleAO RFD is Emeritus Rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney