Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fresh minds

It was back to school this week amidst sighs of relief from the moms and groans from the kids. From day one, schoolchildren count down to their next vacation. In primary school, they dream of being in high school, where they wish school was over so they could get into varsity, where they will itch for the day to be free of study altogether. 

Many adults feel relieved that their time of hitting the books is over. Sure, you might do an MBA, take a computer course or study sales and marketing strategies, but these are temporary forays into academics in between working the “real” world. As they age, people generally study less. 

Here’s an exception: Akasease Kofi Boakye Yiadom, a Ghanaian World War II veteran, who has just graduated business school at the age of 99. When interviewed by CNN, he explained: “Education has no end. As far as your brain can work alright, your eyes can see alright, and your ears can hear alright, if you go to school you can learn.”

When I was a child, I would attend holiday camps, where the day started with Torah classes. When it was time to move on to our next activities, the staff would announce: “Learning never ends”. For a Jew it dare not end. Yiadom’s inspiration sounds like the script of those camp announcements, or the teaching of our sages in Ethics of the Fathers. Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It’s not your responsibility to complete the task, but you may not shirk your responsibility either”. His message is that you’ll never fully plumb the depths of Torah, but you have to keep delving. 

They call us the People of the Book and we’re supposed to live up to that credo. As Yiadom says, if your brain an eyes still work then you ought to use them. His example- heading back to school at 96- should inspire us. Ok, I know not everyone has time to sit all day and study, but we can all make a plan to exercise our minds regularly. 

The funny thing is that, when you start studying Torah, you quickly start enjoying it. It will take a good push to get yourself to a shiur at first, but you’ll get into the swing of it in no time. Take a step to improve your Jewish education, you will be glad you did. 

Oh, and don’t wait till you’re in your nineties to do it!

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