Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger
Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger

Two Tents of Education: The Yeshiva and the Home

"...and Yaakov was a simpler person, sitting in tents" (Braishis 25:27)

"Sitting in tents" certainly does not conjure up in our minds a rigorous and ennobling course of training that would mold the third of our Avos. Yet, that is precisely how the Torah describes the events of Yaakov's life that did indeed give him the wherewithal to successfully navigate through the unfriendly waters of his "Diaspora", and take his place amongst angels as well. Accordingly, Rashi, quoting chazal, interprets that "sitting in tents" refers to the total immersion in the study of Hashem's will, perhaps contributing to the development of the modern phrase, "sitting and learning". With that kind of commitment, Yaakov would develop all the principles and insights of what would be our Torah, all of which would deliver his children safely from the trauma of Mitzrayim to the sacred slopes of Sinai.

Apparently, one tent would not assure the nascent patriarch of the necessary learning and instruction, and therefore Yaakov studied, as Rashi explains, in both the yeshiva of Shem and the yeshiva of Eiver. We must assume that these two yehsivos had distinct teachings to impart and Yaakov wished to absorb both. Where has Rashi already given us some insight into the teachings of Shem and Eiver? Shem, according to Rashi, was King Malki Tzedek, (14:18) who greeted Avraham after his miraculous victory over Kedorlaomer and his imperial army. It is on that occasion that Shem recognizes the handiwork of Hashem and introduces the concept of tithing and berachos into the world, coining phrases that later became part of our daily davening. In our terms these concepts grow out of the study and observance of mitzvos and parshiyos such as Shabbos, yomim tovim, teffilin, hilchos avodah zara, tzedaka, korbanos shelamim and ahavas Hashem. The weltanschauung that is associated with Shem would clearly guide Yaakov as he sets out from his parents' home and dreams of travels that are governed by angels sent from Above. Eiver is introduced by Rashi as a prophet who named his son Peleg (10:25) to forewarn of the impending events surrounding the Tower of Bavel. From Eiver, Yaakov would come to understand how to foresee upcoming events and try to make the necessary preparations. This beis hamedrash would focus on maaseh avos siman lebanim with all its attendant demands and teachings, on preparing his integrity at the house of Lavan, on preparing his children to maintain their uniqueness throughout the Mitzrayim years and ready themselves for the building of the mishkan.

Is it not strange that Yaakov sought his instruction far from home? Why did the multiple tents of training not include the beis hamedrash of Yitzchak? Is there anything he could not learn from his saintly father and the mesorah that he bore? The Ksav Sofer suggests that even though the teacher (Yitzchak) and the Torah would be unsurpassed, still the environs of Eisav had to be avoided at all costs. Yaakov was simply afraid that he would be influenced by the character of his older brother, and that concern came above all else.

The Ksav Sofer notwithstanding, is it not possible to suggest that the multiple tents in which Yaakov studied did indeed include both father and school? That is, the tents of Yitzchak, Shem and Eiver? Thus the training of Yaakov may have required the partnership of home and the yeshiva, a model with which we have become so familiar.

If so, then we must assume that just as the yeshivos of Shem and Eiver had different contributions to make, so to the tents of home and yeshiva have significantly different contributions to make to the growth of our children, an idea which should give us all much pause. Indeed, does not every child require two tents - one that measures according to one's achievements, and demands responsibility and productivity; and another that clearly and continuously communicates absolute, unconditional and unwavering nurturing and acceptance. Together the home and the yeshiva, each one emphasizing its role almost exclusively, can, with warmth and love, raise another generation that will bring so much pleasure to the partnership with whom they are entrusted.

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