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and strong," m. elem, f. almah; (7) youth, naar; (8) "ripened one,"

32 Ezekiel xvi. 4 ; Luke ii. 7.

83 Exodus xiii. 12ff ; Numbers xviii. 15.


was circumcised 34 and named, receiving his name from his
father 35 or from his mother. 38 Peritz found that out of
forty-four cases of naming children mentioned in the Old
Testament, four were ascribed to God, fourteen to men and
twenty-six to women. 87

A mother after the birth of a son was regarded as un-
clean for a period of seven plus thirty-three days ; in the
Mothers' Purifi- case of a daughter the numbers were doubled,
cation Rites. making the period fourteen plus sixty-six days.
During this period the mother was not allowed to touch
any sacred thing or to enter any sacred place. She regained
her ceremonial cleanness at the end of this time by making
two offerings: (1) a burnt-offering, a first-year lamb (in
case the mother was poor, a pigeon or dove) ; (2) a sin
offering, a pigeon or a turtle-dove. 38

Mothers generally suckled their own children, 39 although
nurses are sometimes mentioned. 40 Children were ordin-
arily weaned at the end of two or three years, 41

Weaning Feast. ' . J '

, the completion of the weaning was sometimes
celebrated with a feast. 42

The Talmud states that at thirteen one should assume
the responsibility of the commandments,. i. e.,.become respon- '
Adolescent sible for the Law. 43 The Scriptures give no
Rites - positive information concerning any special

system of education provided for adolescence ; nevertheless
in legends, traditions, customs and rites of later times there
are many indications that even from tribal days adolescence

34 Genesis xvii. 12-14.

35 Ibid., xvi. 15; xvii. 19; Luke i. 59; ii. 21.

36 Genesis xxix. 32 ; 1 Samuel i. 20.

87 I. J. Peritz, "Women in the Ancient Hebrew Cult," Journal of
Biblical Lit., XVII, 13Q-131, note 36.

38 Leviticus xii. 1-8.

39 Genesis xxi. 7.

Ibid., xxiv. 59; 2 Kings xii 2.

"2 Maccabees vii. 27; cf. 1 Samuel i. 22-24.

42 H. A. White, "Birth," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I, 301a.

43 "Tract Aboth," V, near end. (In Rodkinson's transl, p. 133.)


was recognized as a period of peculiar social and religious
significance, and that it was set aside as a time for definitely
^assuming political and religious obligations and was intro-
duced with special ceremonies. It was when Jesus had
reached the age of twelve that his parents felt the time had
arrived for taking him to the temple in Jerusalem. 44 Many
a Jewish tradition and legend represents the hero as having
made his first great decision in life at the opening of adoles-
cence. According to legend, it was at twelve that Moses
left Pharaoh's daughter's house, and that the boy Samuel
heard the voice of God in the night. 45

The rite of circumcision offers perhaps further evidence
of immemorial recognition of the social and educational

significance of adolescence. The earliest Bib-
circumcision. . ft,

heal account of this rite 46 cannot be accepted

as an explanation of its origin but only as an attempt to
explain its origin s an infancy rite. 47 If, as is believed by
some, circumcision was originally a tribal, not a family rite
and formed part of the ceremonies by which youths were
initiated into the tribe, 48 then the inference seems justified
that in the earlier stages of development, the Hebrews in
common with other primitive peoples provided special rites
for adolescence, and, in conjunction with these special rites,
^ special training. Assumption of responsibility for the Law
is to-day accompanied by changes in costume whereby the
significance of adolescence is recognized. Two of these
changes, the zizit and the phylacteries, will now be con-

The early Hebrews appear to have worn as an outer
garment a large piece of cloth of the shape of a Scotch plaid
generally called simlah, to the four corners of which -were

44 Luke ii. 42.

45 B. A. Hinsdale, Jesus as a Teacher, p. 16.

46 Exodus iv. 24-26.

47 H. P. Smith, Old Testament History, p. 67.

48 Cheyne and Black, "Circumcision," Biblical Encyclopedia.


attached blue and white tassels or twisted threads. The
Deuteronomic law reads: "Twisted threads (Hebr. zizit, in-
correctly translated 'fringes') shalt thou make
thee upon the four corners of thy mantle
wherewith thou coverest thyself." 49 The custom seems to
have been a very ancient one with magical or superstitious
associations. In time it took on a spiritual significance,
and the garment with twisted threads came to be chiefly
a reminder of the obligation of the Jews to walk in the Law
of Yahweh and to keep all his commandments. 50 Dispersion,
persecution and changes in costume resulted in post-Biblical
times in substituting for the simlah two garments, namely,
(1) the tallit or prayer-shawl, an outer garment, and (2)
the arba kanfot 51 or small tallit, an undergarment with
twisted threads, which is still worn throughout the day by
orthodox Jews.

The tefillin (sing, tefillah) or phylacteries, are two ritual-
istic objects worn by males over thirteen years of age when
Tefiiiin or Phy- praying. Each consists of a small parchment
lacteries. case with a loop attached through which a

strap may be passed. By means of these straps the wor-
shiper binds one tefillah on the forehead between his eyes,
the other on the inner side of his left arm. The case of
the head tefillah is divided into four compartments in each
of which is one of the four following passages of Scrip-
ture: (1) Exodus xiii. 1-10; (2) Exodus xiii. 11-16; (3)
Deuteronomy vi. 4-9; (4) Deuteronomy xi. 13-21. The
same passages of Scripture are placed in the case of the
arm tefillah which, however, consists of only one compart-
ment. 52

49 Deuteronomy xxii. 12.

50 A. R. S. Kennedy, "Fringes," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, II,

51 J. M. Casanowicz, "Arba Kanfot," Jewish Encyc., II, 75d.

52 William Rosenau, Jewish Ceremonial Institutions and Customs,
pp. 59-60, gives a most excellent account, with illustrations of current


The antiquity of the custom of wearing tefillin cannot
be determined. The New Testament contains many ref-
erences to them. 53 Tradition ascribes their origin to the
command given in Exodus xiii. 16: "And it shall be a sign
for thee upon thy hand and for frontlets between thine
eyes." It is possible that the foundation of the custom
may have been laid in tribal days in some custom of brand-
> ing or tattooing members of the tribe to distinguish them
or to protect them against magic. "Originally the 'sign' was
tattooed on the skin, the forehead ('between the eyes') and
the hand naturally being chosen for display. Later some
visible object worn between the eyes or bound on the hand
was substituted for the writing on the skin." 54

From the time when entrance upon adolescence was
first accepted as the period for assuming adult religious,
political and social responsibilites, it is probable that the
youth was ushered into his new rights and duties by some
period of special preparation and by special religious cere-
monies. It was apparently not until the fourteenth cen-
tury 55 that the present ceremonies connected with the bar
miswah became current, but there is every reason for be-
lieving that between the tribal ceremonies and those of the
bar mizwah there was no break, only continuous develop-
ment. In the absence of any description of earlier ado-
lescent rites it may not be amiss to describe here those of
the bar mizwah, remembering, however, that they belong
to a much later time.

- By bar mizwah 56 (tr. "son of command") is meant a
male Jew who has reached the age (thirteen years) when
he himself is responsible for fulfilling the Law. Some time

53 Matthew xxiii. 5.

54 Emil G. Hirsch, "Phylacteries, Critical View," Jewish Encyc.,
X, 28c.

55 K. Kohler, "Bar Mizwah," Jewish Encyc,, II, 509b.

56 W. Rosenau, Jewish Ceremonial Institutions and Customs, Chap.
X, 149-154, contains a most excellent and clear account of present


before his thirteenth birthday the boy enters upon a period !
of special preparation and religious instruction. On the
Sabbath following his birthday he goes to the

Bar Mizwah. -11 1 r i <-ri

synagogue accompanied by his father. There
in the presence of the congregation the father formally
renounces his responsibility for his son's conduct in the fol-
lowing benediction:

"Blessed art thou
Who hast set me free from the responsibility of this child."

The boy is called upon to read portions of the Scrip-
tures. He may also lead in the benedictions and may even
deliver the address following the close of the Scripture les-
sons. A family festival with gifts may be held at home
after the conclusion of the synagogue service. 57

Such ceremonies as those described above gave to each <
period in the child's life a distinctly religious significance.
Every member of the family was impressed

Educational Sig- * f r

nificance of PC- with the fact that the child belonged to Yah-
riod Rites. weh and that ^ parents we re directly re- '

sponsible to Yahweh for insuring to the child his religious
education. Family pride, public opinion, religious beliefs
and observances reinforced this sense of responsibility.


Prior to the rise of schools festivals, rites, the home
and such religious and social institutions as existed at any
particular period were the means through which recognition
was given to the different periods in child life. After the
rise of schools the transition from home to school marked
a distinct change in the child's environment and occupations.
But school instruction included little else than religion. The
following outline represents approximately the educational
periods in a boy's life after the rise of the elementary

57 William Rosenau, Jewish Ceremonial Institutions and Customs
X, 149-154. The practices given here are for the most part modern.



Outline of Jewish Boys Education After the Rise of
Elementary Schools.

i 6 Infancy.




Parents and Shema or national

other members creed.

of the family. Bible verses and

Prayers, hymns and
Bible stories.

6 12 Childhood.





12 Adolescence. Scribe's Soferim

School. 5S (Scribes).

Memorized portions
of Old Testament,
especially the

Advanced religious
and theological
literature, written
and oral


Industrial Education.

The industrial occupations which had arisen during the
Native Period continued after the Exile. 59 That every boy
learned some handicraft seems evident from the fact that
the most highly educated of all classes, the scribes and
rabbis, supported themselves if necessary by plying a
trade. 00 It was left for the Talmud to direct every father,
regardless of his social position, to teach his son a trade. 61

68 Most boys finished attending school at twelve or thirteen and
took up their trade or vocation. Some few went to higher schools
to prepare to become scribes and rabbis.

59 See Chapter II, What Was Taught, paragraphs on Industrial
and Physical Education."

60 The Talmud mentions more than one hundred rabbis who were
artisans. For a list of trades and crafts and eminent rabbis plying
them see F. J. Delitzsch, Jewish Artisan Life in the Time of Jesus,
pp. 78-79; also J. D. Eisenstein, article on "Rabbi," Jewish Encyc.,
X, 294d-295a.

61 Babylonian Talmud, "Tract Kiddushin," 30b.


But here as in many other instances it seems probable that
the Talmud merely formulated as law what had been com-
mon practice for centuries, perhaps from time immemorial.

In absence of definite information, the question of how -
the boy learned his trade must be largely a matter of con-
jecture. It seems reasonable to assume that in most cases
he followed his father's occupation and acquired his earliest
training by assisting his father or elder brothers in shop or
market-place. As he grew older he would assist more and
more until at length he would enter upon a regular appren-
ticeship. After elementary education had been made com- v
pulsory, the major part of this training would necessarily
be postponed until the boy had finished his studies at the
elementary school. Then, unless he continued his studies
at some higher professional school for the sake of prepar-
ing to become a scribe or rabbi, he would take up serious
preparation for some commercial or industrial occupation. 62 '


The important place occupied by religious music in the
temple service 03 could scarcely have failed to make it a
prominent feature of the religious life of the home. Partly
as the result of direct instruction but largely merely by
hearing his elders chant or sing, the child during infancy
would begin learning the religious songs of his race. Later
on perhaps he would be taught some musical instrument.


Dancing which had occupied a prominent place in early
Hebrew worship, came to be looked upon with increasing
disfavor as a religious act. It continued, however, as a

nr ^" tire P ar agraph should be compared with Chapter II,
Was Taught, paragraphs on Industrial and Physical Education,

6 ! ( J' H '- Corni11 ' The Culture of Ancient Israel, pp. 125-132.
escnptlons see 2 Chronicles xxix. 26-30 and Ecclesiasti

, - , . . For

15-21 escnptlons see 2 Chronicles xxix. 26-30 and Ecclesiasticus i.


festive activity at weddings and other secular festivities.
> There is nothing to show that it found any place in the
schools which apparently devoted all their energies to the
study of the sacred writings. Therefore it was probably
for the most part learned at home.



No sharp distinction can be made in post-Exilic Jewish
education between the intellectual, moral, religious and civic
Holiness as the elements. Practically all literature studied at
IdeaL home and in school was religious literature,

but this literature contained not only religious teachings but
moral teachings and laws. The most important task of
parents was to teach their children religion and for many
centuries this responsibility rested entirely upon the home.
Even after the rise of the elementary schools the education
of girls remained almost entirely within the family as did
also that of boys up to about their seventh year. The re-
ligious ideal of this period may be summed up in the word
holiness. Holiness meant "set apart unto Yahweh," i. e.,
consecrated. Prior to the prophets the term had been devoid
of any ethical content, but through their teachings it came
to mean set apart, through purity of heart and of conduct.

The religious education of the child really began with
the rites of infancy already described by which he was
Earliest Reiig- mar ^ e d as belonging to a race set apart unto
ious Education Yahweh. As he grew older, this ideal was
e Mezuzah. gradually built up within his consciousness by
the words and actions of those about him. Even before
the child could speak he began unconsciously to receive les-
sons in reverence and love of the Law. Long before he
could understand language his attention was attracted by
members of the family pausing before the doorway, touch-
ing reverently the mesusah, a small shining cylinder of wood
or metal, kissing the hand that touched it and then passing


on. 64 Later on he would learn that the mezuzah was placed
upon the doorway in obedience to the divine command:
"Thou shalt write them (the laws) upon the doorposts of
thy house and upon thy gates." 65 Within the cylinder writ-
ten on a small piece of parchment were two passages:
Deuteronomy vi. 4-9 and xi. 13-20. About this time also
the child must have begun to notice the phylacteries and
the bright twisted threads hanging from the four corners
of his father's simlah.

As soon as children began to speak their parents began
teaching them Bible verses. Possibly in the childhood of
Religious Jesus or even earlier it was already the custom

Literature. to begin this teaching with the first verse of
the Shema, 86 the national confession of faith: "Hear, O
Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone." 67 Other verses
from the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms and Proverbs would
be learned one by one. Long before he started to school
the boy would be taught the never-to-be-forgotten stories
of the adventures, calamities and glories of his ancestors.

There was scarcely a question childish lips could frame
for which the answer was not waiting in the sacred writings.
The story of Adam and Eve 68 answered the child's question,
"Who made me and what am I made of ?" ; "Why don't all
people speak the same language?" was answered by the story
of the Tower of Babel. 69 And when he asked who made
the sea and the stars his father recited the majestic poem
of creation: "In the beginning God created the heaven and
the earth." 70 No matter what the question, in its last anal-

64 "The antiquity of the mezuzah is attested by Josephus (c. 37-100
A. D.) who speaks of its employment (Ant., IV, p. 8, sec. 13) as an
old and well-established custom." J. M. Casanowicz, "Mezuzah"
Jewish Encyclopedia, VIII, 532a.

65 Deuteronomy vi. 9.

66 Though the definite provision belongs to the Talmudic period it
is possible the custom was much older. Babylonian Talmud "Suc-
cah," 42a.

67 Deuteronomy vi. 4. 8 Genesis ii. 7ff.
69 Ibid., xi. 1-9. TO /&,</., j. 1 H. 3.


/ I jysis and in its final effect upon the child the answer was
/[ always, "God." It was God who formed man out of the
dust of the earth, it was God who confused the tongues
of men, it was God who divided the waters from the land
and placed the sun, moon and stars in the sky, it was God
who wrote the laws with his finger upon the tables of stone,
and who had laid down the hundred regulations governing
every day and hour. In this atmosphere, pervaded by a
y continuous sense of the reality, holiness, purity and domin- ix
ion of Yahweh the religious consciousness of the child was
awakened, stimulated and nurtured.

In the home, as in the temple and in the synagogue
prayer was a conspicuous and important channel of re-
ligious expression. The life of every mem-
ber of the family was a life of prayer. Before
and after meals a prayer of thanksgiving was offered. 71
Besides this, prayers were offered three times each day,
morning, afternoon and evening. 72 One of the first things l
taught to children was to pray. 73

Two different classes of festivals were observed in the
home : 74 ( 1 ) festivals celebrating some event of family life,
Festivals in the such as the infancy festivals already described ;
Home. (2) festivals celebrating some historical, re-

ligious or social event of national importance such as the
Passover and the Feast of the Tabernacles. Some festivals
such as the Sabbath, 75 originally seasons of rest, gradually
became days of religious observance, study of the Law and

71 Inference based upon such passages as Matthew xv. 36 and Acts
xxvii. 35.

72 Inference based upon such passages as Psalm Iv. 17 and Daniel
vi. 10.

73 By Talmudic law the child was "to be enforced by the father to
say the benediction after each meal and to invoke a blessing before
tasting any kind of fruit." N. H. Imber, Education and the Talmud,
Report of the U. S. Commissioner of Education, 1894-95, II, 1814d.

74 Cf. Chapter V, The Synagogue, paragraph on Order of Service.

75 T. G. Soares, The Social Institutions and Ideals of the Bible.
pp. 168-170.


training in ritual and religious customs. 78 Every religious
festival offered parents an opportunity for giving impres-
sive religious instruction. Many festivals were definitely
set aside as seasons for instruction in national history and
religion (Nehemiah viii. 18). Within the home the parents
in obedience to divine command explained to the chil-
dren the origin of the festival and the meaning of each
symbolic act. How far this tendency to make religious in-
struction an element of every festival was carried is well
illustrated by Purim, the carnival of the Jewish year. Purim
was originally merely a festival of merriment and is to this
day marked chiefly by unbridled jollity. In time, however,
the custom arose (which finally became a universal obliga-
tory part of the day's observance) of reading or hearing the
story of the book of Esther.

The Passover celebrated in the evening of the fourteenth
day of the month Abib, or Nisan, was followed immediately
The Passover ty tne seven days' Feast of Unleavened Bread
and Feast of Un- which began on the fifteenth and continued
leavened Bread. through the twenty-first. During all this time
only unleavened bread was eaten. In every household on
Passover eve a lamb, a year old, or a kid, free from all
blemish, was roasted whole and eaten with bitter herbs.
The manner in which the feast was celebrated aimed to
recall vividly and dramatically the situation to which its
origin was traced, namely the flight from Egypt: for the
Law directed that those, partaking of the feast should eat
it in haste, standing and dressed ready to march, their loins
girded, their shoes on their feet and staff in hand. 77 Perhaps
no festival illustrates better than the Feast of the Passover
the manner in which festivals were used as occasions for
religious instruction and training.

"At a certain part of the service it was expressly or-
dained that the youngest at the paschal table should rise
and formally ask what was the meaning of all this service
Ibid., pp. 170-171. 77 Exodus xii. 11.


and how that night was distinguished from others: to which
the father was to reply, by relating, in language suited to
the child's capacity, the whole national history of Israel
from the calling of Abraham down to the deliverance from
Egypt and the giving of the Law." 78


Through the prophets Yahweh had been revealed as a

God of righteousness whose first demand of his worshipers

was pure hearts and upright lives. Direct

Religious Basis. -

from Yahweh of Hosts came the command

to truthfulness, mercy, honesty and purity. The moral
responsibility of the individual was not merely to his fam-
ily and the community but to Yahweh. Consequently there
could be no separation between morality and religion. It
was impossible to be religious unless one were first righteous.

In the Native Period moral education like every other
type of education had been received almost entirely through
training. 79 Such training in no sense ceased after the Exile ;
nevertheless, the Jews became ever increasingly a people of
the book, and written literature became more and more im-
portant as a channel of education in morals and manners
as well as in religion.

No people has ever produced a body of literature so rich
in moral teachings or so wide and so varied in its possible
application. In the earlier writings and in those passages
in the later ones designed for children, moral precepts are
stated dogmatically. But in many portions of the later writ-
ings dogmatic precepts give way to principles. Consequently
the Old Testament is equally well adapted for the primitive ,
virtues Empha- and the highly developed mind, for the moral
sized, Obedience instruction of the child and the meditation of
the philosopher. Absolute obedience to parents was re-
garded as the cardinal virtue of childhood and was pre-

78 A. Edersheim, In the Days of Christ, p. 110; cf. Exodus xii.
26-27 and Exodus xiii. 8.

79 See Chapter II, paragraph on Morals.


sented as such in the earliest as well as in the latest writ-

"Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long
In the land which Yahweh thy God giveth thee." 80

"He that feareth the Lord will honor his father
And will do service unto his parents, as to his masters." 81

"Honor thy father with thy whole heart
And forget not the sorrows of thy mother,
Remember thou wast begotten of them :
And how canst thou recompense them
The things they have done for thee?" 82

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Online LibraryFletcher Harper SwiftEducation in ancient Israel : from earliest times to 70 A.D. → online text (page 5 of 10)