Halachos for Educators
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
Jews from time immemorial placed a tremendous importance on teaching Jewish children Torah because it is the key to the future of the Jewish people.
Importance of Teaching
- The primary obligation is teaching Torah and learning Torah is a necessary step in order to teach.
- It is extremely important that children learn Torah and we shouldn't stop them from learning in order to fulfill another mitzvah. We shouldn't interrupt children learning Torah to participate in the building of the bet hamikdash. This applies to even to older children as long as they are learning from their rebbe. The world continues to exist because of the Torah that the young students learn.
- We excommunicate a city in order to ensure that it has an educator.
- Education of children shouldn't stop except on Friday and Erev Yom Tov at the end of the day.
- You can't teach new learning to children on Shabbat so that it isn't too strenuous but you can review.
Who can be a Teacher
- A single man can't be a teacher since he might become secluded with the mothers of the children he is teaching whether he is teaching girls or boys.  The minhag is to allow even a single man to teach and there's what to rely upon since in the school there are married teachers and it isn't yichud. A married man can be a teacher even if he is another city.
- A young married man may teach woman as long as there is no yichud question, however, it is pious and proper not to unless he is old.
- A woman can't be a teacher since she might become secluded with the fathers of the children he is teaching whether he is teaching girls or boys. Today the minhag is that there are female teachers. Some say that female teachers should not teach boys older than 9 years old.
- There is a discussion about hiring a non-Jewish or irreligious teacher.
Need for Teachers
- There shouldn't be more than twenty five students for one teacher. If that teacher has an assistant he could have up to forty students. However, primarily it depends on the situation.
- A teacher who doesn't teach properly, is lazy in his work, or take another job that impedes his performance is cursed because he is doing Hashem's work deceitfully. Therefore, it is important to only appoint a teacher that is God fearing, who is skilled in language and be careful.
- A teacher isn't supposed to be awake at night so that he isn't tired for work. He can't fast or deprive himself of food or drink since doing so will cause him not to teacher well.
- It is important to get the best teacher of Torah and it is therefore permitted to replace one teacher with a better one.
- If there is a teacher who can read more quickly and another teacher who is more careful they should appoint the teacher that is more careful.
Speaking in a Way that the Students Understand
Rav Volbe on Parsha Ki Tisa
Teachers who Don't Prepare Properly
Yirmiyahu 48:10, Rambam Talmud Torah 2:4
Speaking Lashon Hara about Students
See Lashon Hara page.
Torah Curriculum to Teach Children
- Generally a person should divide all of his learning into three parts, a third of his time for Tanach, a third for the Oral Torah, and a third for delving into the reasons for Torah. As a person gets older and doesn't need to spend as much time on Tanach he should spend more time on the other topics. See this discussed on the Laws_of_Learning_Torah#Tanach.2C_Mishna.2C_and_Talmud page.
- When the child is old enough to speak a parent should teach him the Pasuk "תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהלת יעקב" and Shema. As he continues to learn he should learn more pesukim.
- Chazal recommend starting a child's learning with Vayikra so that the pure innocent children learn the topics of purity.
- There is no obligation to learn or teach Tanach to children in order. Ultimately they should be taught all of Tanach. However, when that isn't possible the school should choose certain parshiyot and perakim to learn well so that they know how to learn and everything else superficially. The hope is that the students will learn on their own when they grow up especially if they're taught to love Torah.
- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in Lessons in Leadership Parshat Bo p. 74 cited by Rabbi Rosner Bo 5779
- Gemara Brachot 14b, Gemara Bava Kama 17a, Ritva 14b, Pirkei Avot 4:6, Rambam Talmud Torah 1:1
- Gemara Shabbat 119b, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:13
- Chinuch Habanim Lmitzvot p. 10 citing Chovot Hatalmidim ch. 1
- Shabbat 119b, Chinuch Habanim Lmitzvot p. 10
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:7 and if the city still refuses, we destroy the city.
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:12
- Gemara Nedarim 37a, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:14
- Shulchan Aruch E.H. 22:20. See Pitchei Teshuva 22:13 who writes that some questioned the minhag to have a single man as a teacher.
- Malbushei Mordechai Yichud 22:3 p. 239-240, Otzar Haposkim 22:57:2 quoting Marya Dachya, Dvar Halacha, and Avnei Tzedek who defend the minhag of having single men being a teacher. Avnei Tzedek explains that the minhag is relying on the opinion that the prohibition is entirely about yichud and if yichud is solved it is permitted. Dvar Halacha explains that the prohibition is because of causing himself to be overly involved with women. Nonetheless, that today if he works in another profession he's going to be involved with women even more, it is permitted.
- Chelkat Mechokek 22:21 states that even for a married man if the man's husband is outside the city it is a problem of yichud in case the mothers of the children come. Bet Shmuel 22:22 agrees. However, Pitchei Teshuva 22:13 cites Rabbi Akiva Eiger who cites Lechem Rav 4 who is lenient if the male teacher is married even if his wife is in another city.
- Shulchan Aruch E.H. 22:20
- Sefer Chasidim 313 writes that a young man should not teach woman because of the concerns of attraction and kol b'isha ervah. Otzar Haposkim 22:61:4 quotes the Teshurat Shay 170 who writes that it is permitted for a married man to teach woman but one who is pious would avoid it as the Sefer Chasidim writes. Also they quote the Yavetz in Migdal Oz (Birchot Shamayim 2:11-12) who says the same and completely forbids it. Otzar Haposkim 21:20:2 also cites the Sfat Hameil OC 75 and Torat Hahistaklut 6:2 who elaborate on the Sefer Chasidim.
- Shulchan Aruch E.H. 22:20
- Avnei Derech 5:66 citing Shevet Halevi 4:16, 10:235 and Teshuvot Vehanhagot 5:332
- Igrot Moshe YD 3:73 writes that it is permitted to hire a female teacher for little children since there's no yichud in our schools which are open to the public. Also, for children under 9 there's no concern that she will become motivated to sin. However, with boys older than 9 there is a concern and she shouldn't be hired unless there is a great extenuating circumstance. Tzitz Eliezer 14:97 agrees that a female shouldn't teach boys above 9.
- See Shulchan Aruch E.H. 22:4 and Chachmat Adam 89:12
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:15 rules that there shouldn't be more than twenty five students per teacher. If there is between twenty five and forty there needs to be a teacher with another assistant.
- The Shach 245:10 writes that it all depends on the situation, the quality of the teacher and students.
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:17
- Rama Y.D. 245:17
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:18
- Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:19
- Rambam Talmud Torah 1:11, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 246:4
- Sukkah 42a, Rambam Talmud Torah 1:6, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 245:5
- Vayikra Rabba 7:3 establishes that children should start learning Vayikra since they are pure and should deal with matters of purity. Avot Derabbi Natan 1:6 supports this. Yalkut Yosef Chinuch Introduction cites this. Bear Heitiv 245:8 cites the Kol Bo who says that the minhag was to start with Vayikra.
- Aseh Lecha rav 8:58