Unsophisticated Education Contraindicated

You are a teacher. You are now teaching a (mainly) frum class of  students who are 17 years of age. You are teaching Halacha. In and among your lesson you ask someone “What is Halacha” and you get the ubiquitous answer “It’s Jewish Law”. Fine. One student then says

it’s not really Law because unlike non-Jewish Law where there is no choice and every body must follow the Law, Halacha is couched within a system of free choice and it is the person who chooses to accept the yoke of heaven for whom Halacha becomes Law (albeit Divine Law)”.

Some teachers would be taken aback with this answer.

Sounds fine to me. Shabbos is not like a speeding law. You choose to keep Shabbos and we hope you do, and we try to educate you to appreciate Shabbos so that you do, but it isn’t like a speeding law which must be kept whether you agree or not. Indeed, one of the oft quoted answers to the question “Why is God invisible” has always been “because if he was visible, you’d have no choice but to keep His Laws (Halacha)”. Put simply, if He was visible, it would be like the proverbial policeman standing there with the speed gun wherever you were driving; you’d be hard pressed deciding to speed. Where would בחירה חפשית free choice be? Without בחירה חפשית there is no reward system and we may as well be מלאכים.

Sadly, I think that many teachers lack the basic sophistry to use the aforementioned non standard answer as a pick up point to actually engage the students into a deeper discussion that also expound on the actual term הלכה and what this means vis-a-vis the journey and way of life.

I’d suggest many teachers when faced with such an answer would exclaim

ה’ ירחם, God have mercy on us all! I thought you came from a religious house, how could you possibly present a view which implied that Halacha was anything but mandatory Law”.

It’s lamentable. We need teachers who understand our youth and have enough sophistication to capture any moment or insight and make it a positive educational experience. What we often have instead is outmoded fossils who can only yell and condemn in response and thereby actually turn more people off than they turn on.