The ark of education
by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
In today's world most parents send their children to school to be educated by others. Does the home have an educational role in today's day and age?
In this week's Torah portion we read how G-d told Noach that He was going to flood the world. To survive the oncoming flood, Noach was instructed to build an ark wherein he and his family would find refuge from the raging waters. Among the different features of the ark, Noach was told to create a source of light to serve the ark's inhabitants. He did this in two different ways - by building windows and by bringing precious, shiny stones into the ark.
Why did Noach have to create two sources of light? Surely the windows would have provided ample light?
We live in a very turbulent world. There are many raging waters out there that constantly threaten to consume us. Our children are constantly being exposed to new trends and ways that are often quite harmful. We need to protect ourselves and our children by creating a place of refuge, a place that is free from those external influences. That place is our homes. This is the place where we have the power to decide what enters. We have the power to allow our interior traditional values to take precedence over exterior modern-day trends.
But it's not enough to just "block-out" the outside. It's important to create a source of light, a source of warmth and vitality on the inside too. This is the light of education. This source of light comes in 2 different forms, both being equally important components - the "window" form and the "precious stone" form: There are two main differences between the light provided by a window and the light provided by shiny stones. Firstly, a window brings in light from the outside; precious stones provide light from within. Another difference is that a window can only provide light from one position and during certain hours of the day; precious stones can be moved to wherever the light is most needed and provide light at all times.
The "window form" of light is the education that a child is provided with from the outside - primarily in school. The "precious stone form" of light is the education that a child is provided with from the inside - at home. For our homes to perform their functions correctly, both forms of "light" are necessary. A child cannot advance in a healthy way without the educational experience that only a school can provide; but at the same time no child can grow into a mature adult without the values and ethics imparted by the parents at home. It's a clear partnership between the school and the parents.
But there is an additional significance to the education provided by parents at home: Like the window, the "educational light" that enters from school is only provided from one location and in specific hours. This cannot match the precious stone form of "educational light" which can be provided by parents at any location 24/7.