On November 20, 1959, the United Nations adopted a resolution accepting the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This ten-point declaration was based on a document created in Geneva in 1924 and was aimed at creating a universal standard for bettering the lives of children. It includes a provision on the right of every child  for a name as well as the principle that children with special needs of all variety receive an education and necessary assistance.

The seventh principle of the Declaration declares that “The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. He shall be given an education which will promote his general culture, and enable him on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop his abilities, his individual judgement, and his sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society…”

Judaism does not have a concept of human rights, but rather views the world in terms of human obligations. A child is obligated to honor their father and mother. This is a foundation of Jewish life and one of the Ten Commandments. A parent is obligated to educate their child, and this obligation is expansive. The child must be taught Torah, the fundamentals of Jewish life and guide to the laws and mores of Jewish society. However, a child must also be taught a craft or a trade, the necessary skills to support himself and make society better.

The fact that the right to an education needed to be codified demonstrates how the Torah attitude toward the next generation differed from the rest of the world for hundreds of years. Most societies did not enact universal educational systems until the mid-1800s. However, as early as the 1st century of the common era, “Joshua ben Gamala came and ordained that teachers of young children should be appointed in each district and each town” (Talmud Baba Batra 21a).

Today’s Treat was posted in honor of Universal Children’s Day.

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