Sunday, 3 July 2016

Education of Golems: Part 1

Golem: Unformed

Ethics of the Fathers 5:9
“Seven traits characterize an uncultivated person and seven a learned one. A learned person does not begin speaking before one who is greater than he is in wisdom or in years; he does not interrupt the words of his fellow; he does not answer impetuously; he questions with relevance to the subject and he replies accurately; he discusses first things first and last things last; about something he has not heard he says, ‘I have not heard’; and he acknowledges the truth. And the reverse of these characterize an uncultivated person.”
The word that has been translated by Artscroll to mean “uncultivated person” above is golem in Hebrew. It comes from the word used in Psalm 139:16:
“Your eyes saw my unshaped form and in Your book all were recorded; though they will be fashioned through many days to Him they are one...”
The words for ‘raw’ and ‘cocoon’ in moden Hebrew are also golem. So we can see that the word refers to something that is a state which is transitional to another. Uncultivated to cultivated, unshaped to shaped, raw to processed and cocoon to butterfly.

Education: Formal

The reasons for mentioning the above is that whilst this blog has referred to golems almost exclusively in terms of a mystical android created through the permutation of Hebrew letters and Divine names – it can also refer to the transformation of someone via education.

So what is the Jewish guidance on eduction? There is a lot written on the subject of Chinuch, education, but for now I just want to quote two sources.

Ethics of the Fathers 5:25:
“He used to say: a five-year-old begins Scripture, a ten-year-old begins Mishnah, a thirteen-year-old becomes obliged to observe the commandments, a fifteen-year-old begins to study Gemara, an eighteen-year-old goes to the marriage canopy, a twenty-year-old begins a pursuit of a livelihood, a thirty-year-old attains full strength, a forty-year-old attains understanding, a fifty-year-old can offer counsel, a sixty-year-old attains seniority, a seventy-year-old attains a ripe old age, an eighty-year-old shows strength, a ninety-year-old becomes stooped over, hundred-year-old is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world.”
Which covers the education of Jewish law, customers, history, etc. Secular studies are recommended by Maimonides in “Guide to the Perplexed” to be taken up in the following order:
“Consequently he who wishes to attain to human perfection, must therefore first study Logic, next the various branches of Mathematics in their proper order, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics. We find that many who have advanced to a certain point in the study of these disciplines become weary, and stop: that others, who are endowed with sufficient capacity, are interrupted in their studies by death, which surprises them while still engaged with the preliminary course.”
The above two sources are the basis on which I am structuring the education of my children, First a focus on the natural world by visiting farms, zoos, and the countryside. Next comes the study of logic and Scripture that helps them gain critical analytical skills and story-telling – forming a balance of scientific and artistic thinking.