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By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom | Series: | Level:

6. We take the child from one teacher to another teacher who is brighter than him, whether in reading or in *diqduq* (punctiliousness). When does this apply? when both of them are in one city and no river separates them. However, we do not take the child from city to city or from one side of the river to the other side, even in one city, unless there was a strong building (bridge) over the river – a building which is not likely to fall easily.

Q1: Is this an obligation or permission (i.e. is the father _obligated_ to take his child to the best teacher – or is he merely permitted to take him away from one teacher to another should he decide to?)

YE: From the *sugya* in Bava Bathra (21a) it seems that this is an obligation.

A secondary question is as follows: Is there a single obligation upon the father to bring his child to school (as the rabbinic expansion of “and you shall teach your children”) – and, as part of that obligation, he must find his son the most careful and bright teacher? Or are there two separate Halakhot – to bring your child to any school and, independent of that, to identify the most qualified teacher?

One signficant ramification to the resolution of this question would be financial – if the only way to have your son taught is to pay the local teacher (see TT 1:3) – do you have to find the best teacher – who might be the most expensive – for your son, as part of the general obligation of education? Or can you fulfill it in a minimalistic way, hiring the least expensive (and, probably, less effective) teacher?

It is reasonable that it is part of one obligation and should not be viewed as a form of *hidur mitzva* (glorifying the mitzva – as in a more beautiful lulav etc.) or a separate obligation. The reasoning is: Since the obligation to educate the child has been expanded in order to achieve the best possible results ; i.e. that the child learns with a qualified teacher, with other children, that all children have access to education, that the age of the child (see TT 2:2) is appropriate, as well as the discplinary style of the teacher – it would seem to follow that the father has to also find the person best suited to fulfill this job.

Q2: Does this rule of taking the child from city to city apply only to young children? At what point does this cease to matter?

YE: The way that Rashi (Bava Bathra 21 s.v. Lo Mamtinan) explains, the ordinance is not to take the child from school to school, day after day, since the travelling is dangerous. This would clearly apply to older students, but might not apply today since we generally regard normal commuting as less dangerous (e.g. most people do not recite *Birkat haGomel* – the blessing said after a dangerous journey – after a “normal” commute).

However, R ties this Halakha in with the Halakha of finding the best teacher – so he isn’t referring to school-hopping as much as a regular daily commute. It seems that this is in apposition to the chronological development of the school-ordinances (see archives: TT 2:01)…in short, originally:

1) every father would teach his son. That left out orphans.

2) Then, teachers were set up in Yerushalayim – but someone without a father had noone to take him up to Yerushalayim to study.

3) Then teachers were set up in regions, and teen-age boys came to study. (we assume that it was too far for younger children to go). They proved to be incorrigible at that age, so

4) R. Yehoshua b. Gamla ordained that every town establish its own schoolroom.

R may be pointing out that although we DO look for the best teacher, we may not violate the final ordinance, which was made to ensure LOCAL education. See below for a discussion about the “bridge” issue here.

Q3: Is the Halakha of the strong bridge because of safety? If so, what is it doing here? – it should be in Hilkhot Rotzeach uShmirat haNefesh (Laws of Murderers and Physical Safety), where all the Halakhot of personal safety are organized; if it is for another consideration, what is that consideration?

YE: It is definitely connected with safety. R. Gershom (Bava Bathra 21a) points out that the concern is that these children, who are young, may not have enough experience/knowledge/common sense to hold on to the guard rails and may fall off (this may force us to reexamine the age issue discussed above in question 2). The reason it is here and not in Hilkhot Rotzeach is because there are two issues discussed there:

1) preventing a dangerous situation on your property (archetypically – the parapet on the roof) and

2) not endangering yourself (archetypically – water which was left out overnight in a place where poisonous snakes are common). Our Halakha deals with a third area – endangering others. It belongs here for another reason – this is part of the Halakhot of setting up a school – proper care for the students

Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project Genesis, Inc.