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Steinsaltz

In the latter clause we arrive at the case of schoolchildren who come to learn Torah in his house, and this ruling applies from the time of the ordinance of Yehoshua ben Gamla and onward.

What was this ordinance? As Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: Truly, that man is remembered for the good, and his name is Yehoshua ben Gamla. If not for him the Torah would have been forgotten from the Jewish people. Initially, whoever had a father would have his father teach him Torah, and whoever did not have a father would not learn Torah at all. The Gemara explains: What verse did they interpret homiletically that allowed them to conduct themselves in this manner? They interpreted the verse that states: “And you shall teach them [otam] to your sons” (Deuteronomy 11:19), to mean: And you yourselves [atem] shall teach, i.e., you fathers shall teach your sons.

When the Sages saw that not everyone was capable of teaching their children and Torah study was declining, they instituted an ordinance that teachers of children should be established in Jerusalem. The Gemara explains: What verse did they interpret homiletically that enabled them to do this? They interpreted the verse: “For Torah emerges from Zion” (Isaiah 2:3). But still, whoever had a father, his father ascended with him to Jerusalem and had him taught, but whoever did not have a father, he did not ascend and learn. Therefore, the Sages instituted an ordinance that teachers of children should be established in one city in each and every region [pelekh]. And they brought the students in at the age of sixteen and at the age of seventeen.

But as the students were old and had not yet had any formal education, a student whose teacher grew angry at him would rebel against him and leave. It was impossible to hold the youths there against their will. This state of affairs continued until Yehoshua ben Gamla came and instituted an ordinance that teachers of children should be established in each and every province and in each and every town, and they would bring the children in to learn at the age of six and at the age of seven. With regard to the matter at hand, since this system was established for the masses, the neighbors cannot prevent a scholar from teaching Torah in the courtyard.

Concerning that same issue, Rav said to Rav Shmuel bar Sheilat, a teacher of children: Do not accept a student before the age of six, as he is too young, and it is difficult for him to learn in a steady manner. From this point forward, accept him and stuff him with Torah like an ox. And Rav further said to Rav Shmuel bar Sheilat: When you strike a child for educational purposes, hit him only with the strap of a sandal, which is small and does not cause pain. Rav further advised him: He who reads, let him read on his own; whoever does not read, let him be a companion to his friends, which will encourage him to learn to read.

With regard to a courtyard, the Gemara concluded that it is permitted for one to establish an elementary school to teach Torah and the neighbors cannot protest. The Gemara raises an objection to this ruling from a baraita: With regard to one member of a courtyard who wishes to become a doctor, a bloodletter, a weaver [vegardi], or a teacher of children, the other members of the courtyard can prevent him from doing so. This indicates that neighbors can protest the teaching of children in their shared courtyard. The Gemara answers: With what are we dealing here, i.e., when can they protest his teaching children? We are dealing with a case of gentile children, as there is no mitzva to educate them. In this situation, the neighbors can protest about the noise.

Come and hear another baraita: With regard to two people who are residing in one courtyard, and one of them sought to become a doctor, a bloodletter, a weaver, or a teacher of children, the other can prevent him from doing so. The Gemara answers: Here too, we are dealing with a case of gentile children.

The Gemara suggests: Come and hear another baraita: One who has a house in a jointly owned courtyard may not rent it to a doctor, nor to a bloodletter, nor to a weaver, nor to a Jewish teacher [sofer], nor to a gentile teacher. This indicates that one’s neighbors can prevent him from teaching Jewish children. The Gemara answers: With what are we dealing here? We are dealing with the scribe [sofer] of the town, who does not teach children but writes documents and letters for residents of the town. This type of work is not a mitzva, and since many people seek his services, the residents of the courtyard can prevent him from performing this job near their houses.

§ With regard to the ordinance of Yehoshua ben Gamla, and concerning teaching children in general, Rava says: From the time of the ordinance of Yehoshua ben Gamla, that schoolteachers must be established in each town, and onward, one does not bring a child from one town to another. Rather, each child is educated where he resides. But one does bring them from one synagogue where they learn to another synagogue. And if a river separates the areas one does not bring the children across, lest they fall into the river. And if there is a bridge spanning the river one may bring them across the river. But if there is only a narrow bridge [gamla] one does not bring them.

And Rava said: The maximum number of students for one teacher of children is twenty-five children. And if there are fifty children in a single place, one establishes two teachers, so that each one teaches twenty-five students. And if there are forty children, one establishes an assistant, and the teacher receives help from the residents of the town to pay the salary of the assistant.

And Rava said: If there is a teacher of children who teaches a few subjects, and there is another who teaches more subjects than him, one does not remove the first teacher from his position to hire the second, as perhaps the other teacher will come to be negligent due to the lack of competition. Rav Dimi from Neharde’a said: On the contrary, all the more so is it the case that he will teach in a better manner if he knows that he is the sole instructor in the place, as jealousy among teachers increases wisdom. The one who was dismissed will try to refine his skills so that he will be rehired, and this will prevent negligence on the part of the other teacher.

And Rava said: If there are two teachers of children, one who teaches a lot of material but is not precise in his statements, and one who is precise but does not teach a lot of material, one hires the one who teaches a lot of material but is not precise. Why is this? Errors will be corrected by themselves, and no lasting harm will be caused. By contrast, Rav Dimi of Neharde’a said: One hires the instructor who is precise and does not teach a lot of material, as once an error is taught, it is taught, and cannot be easily corrected.

The Gemara cites a proof for the opinion of Rav Dimi of Neharde’a: This is as it is written: “For Joab and all Israel remained there six months until he had cut off every male in Edom” (I Kings 11:16). When Joab came before King David after this episode, David said to him:

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
אדם סלומון
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