By Bernie on 24 Aug 2012
In response to my article A Visitor Suggests I Go to Sunday School Classes, Constant reader pjsymanski jokingly left a comment asking, "Would you consider Saturday school?"
Let me consider the question seriously. For those of my readers who may not know, allow me to make the following two observations:
- The purpose of Sunday school is to teach people, generally children, about Christianity. Even non-Christians are allowed to attend Sunday schools for religious education.
- The are no "Saturday" schools in Jewish tradition for the following reasons:
- It is forbidden on the Sabbath for Jews to learn anything new about the Old Testament or delve into topics of a religious nature that require deep thought; Jews are allowed to study Torah, however "a number of halachic authorities are of the opinion that one should not engage in intricate or in-depth Torah study on Shabbat" (1).
- As for non-Jews, they are prohibited from learning Torah and Jews are forbidden to teach it to them (2). This is one of the reasons you will not see Jews going around like Jehovah's Witnesses, trying to convert people.
So while strictly speaking there are no Jewish Saturday Schools, there are, however, Jewish Sunday Schools, and because of 2a above, are obviously held on Sundays (and one day of the week either Tuesday or Wednesday in the evening).
I should mention that Jews disagree about everything and likewise the views expressed above may be interpreted differently by Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular Jews. For example, the Jewish Cultural Sunday School, a socialist/secular organization based in Boston, invites Jew and non-Jew alike, including members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning [not sure what they are]) community to study "Jewish history, culture and progressive ideals that shape our identity and values as a people."
My own personal opinion is that all knowledge should be shared. The belief that non-Jews might use Jewish holy texts to spread antisemitism is incorrect. Antisemitic baboons do not need our holy texts to spread lies about us, they create bogus and fictitious texts to "prove" how vile and blood-thirsty Jews are. Read A pregnant non-Jew is no better than a pregnant animal where I write:
Anti-Semites (including many Muslims) leave links to mostly antisemitic blogs and websites where distortions, fabrications, and deceptions are listed as proof of Jewish perfidy and hatred of non-Jews. One antisemitic site links to another and that to another in a mutual circle-jerk each providing "proof" of this or that lie against Jews.
Certain non-Jews, and here I specifically single out Muslims, will spread Jew-hatred whether or not Jews share the knowledge of the Torah with them.
Hirhurim - Musings, 18 Aug 2009, Torah Study on Shabbat... A Forbidden Activity?
While it goes without saying that one should allocate time for Torah study on Shabbat, it is interesting to note that a number of halachic authorities are of the opinion that one should not engage in intricate or in-depth Torah study on Shabbat. This is especially true with regards to Talmud study which is known to be one of the more difficult areas of Torah study. Indeed, some authorities have argued that one who delves deeply into Torah on Shabbat is considered to have desecrated Shabbat through excessive exertion, mental agony, and even transgressing the prohibition of "borer" when reflecting on different theories and arguments. One may also want to consider avoiding learning completely new material on Shabbat.
JPost - Magazine, 12 Jul 2012, Ask the rabbi: May a Jew teach Torah to a gentile?
The Torah states, “Moses has commanded us the Torah, an inheritance for the community of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). Deeming this inheritance the exclusive property of Jews, the sages prohibited gentiles from learning Torah and Jews from teaching it to them. A strident prohibition was also expressed in the Zohar.
While the Talmud elsewhere mentions that non-Jews were taught Torah, some of those cases were clearly under the coercive pressure of the dominant rulers.
Scholars have offered various rationales for the talmudic prohibition, which broadly impacted its scope. Based on talmudic exegesis, some scholars understood any non-Jewish study as a betrayal of the unique bond between Jews and God or a misappropriation of national treasure, with a few even contending that this included potential converts who had not yet joined the nation. Some went so far as to ban teaching the Hebrew alphabet, although other sources indicated that this was a pragmatic step to prevent polemical abuses by hostile anti-Semites. In a similarly polemical vein, one medieval source suggested that gentiles can learn the Prophets and Hagiography (Writings) because its prophecies prove that God has not abandoned the Jewish people.
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