Ve-limadtem, ou-limadtem (You shall teach and you shall learn.)

by Jacques Abourbih

I had an interesting discussion with Scott last Shabbat on Friday evening at kabbalat Shabbat service at the Synagogue.

I had not seen Scott since they arrived back in Canada. It was a freat pleasure to meet again an opld friend. It also brought back memories of times we had studied and argued about Torah and Halachah. Hopefully we will in due course resume these sessions in a more formal setting.

The commandment ve-limadtem (and you shall teach) is found in the Shema passage we recite twice daily: “ And teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (D’varim 11:19)

This is one of the the obligations of the father towards his son. In the Gemara Rabbi Yehuda says: “What is the meaning of  Mizvot ha-av al ha-ben? (Obligations of the father to his son) …The father is obligated with respect to his sonto circumcise him, teach him Torah, take a wife for him, and teach him a craft…”. (Kiddushin 29a).

Within this Genara is also a fundamental principle “Whoever is commanded to study is commanded (also) to teach.

(And) Because it is written ve limadtem u limadtem: The one wom others are commanded to each is commanded to teach himself.” (Kiddushin 29b)

The logical principle behind ve limadtem u limadtem (you shall teach and you shall learn) is based on the fact that the key word in Devarim 11:19 can be read to mean You shall teach or You shall teach yourself (learn). The word ve limadtem literally means “and to cause others to learn”, whereas u limadtem “and you shall teach yourselves”. In English the act of learning and the act of teaching are expressed by two different words. In the language of the Torah this is done by using the same root word (L’M’D) in two different forms to express two different meanings.

This linguistic shift gives way to the logical progression:

The one who are commanded to teach must also teach himself.

The one who must teach himself must teach others.