Education in Ancient Israel and Judah
Early Israelites placed a high value on
education. Rabbis—Jewish religious
teachers—taught their followers, “If you
have knowledge, you have everything.”
Fathers taught their young sons the
commandments. They also taught them
about the meanings of Jewish traditions
and holy feasts. At age five, boys went
to a school that was connected with
the synagogue. There, the hazan, a
special teacher of the synagogue, taught
them the Torah. Everything the students
learned—from the alphabet to Jewish
history—they learned from the Torah.
Jewish laws decided the stages of
students’ education. Different subjects
were introduced at the ages of 5, 10,
and 13. Most Jewish boys finished
their education at age 13. At that age,
boys became adults.
Connecting to the Past
1. Why was education important to the
2. What was a father’s role in his son’s
central to Jewish life, religious teachers
became important community leaders.
Mothers educated their daughters at
home. The girls learned to be good wives,
mothers, and housekeepers. This included
learning Jewish laws about food and
clothing. They also learned about the coura-
geous women of ancient Israel. One of these
women was Ruth. Her biography appears
on the next page. Her courage and devotion
to her family provided an example for
Jewish girls to follow.
The Jewish Diet Under Jewish law, Jews
could eat only certain animals. For example,
they could eat beef and lamb but not pork.
They could eat scaly fish, like salmon, but
not shellfish or smooth-skinned fish, like
eels. Laws about food are known as kashrut,
which means “that which is proper.”
Today, food that is prepared according to
Jewish dietary laws is called kosher. Animals
used for kosher meat must be killed in a spe-
cial way. The meat must be inspected, salted,
and soaked. To be kosher, Jews must not
cook or eat milk products with meat.
In ancient times, everyday meals were
made up of fish, fruit, vegetables, and barley
bread. Beverages included mainly milk,
water, wine, and beer.
Jewish Clothing Jewish law forbade mixing
some fabrics. So women used flax or wool
to make cloth but did not combine the two.
Jewish men wore tunics made of linen
next to their skin. Some men layered
another tunic on top of the first. In cold
weather, they wore wool or sheepskin
cloaks. On their heads, they wore caps or
turbans. On their feet, they wore sandals.
Women draped themselves in long, simple
dresses. They covered their heads with
shawls. Wealthy women wore leather
shoes, wore makeup, and owned jewelry.
Why were sons
especially valued in ancient Jewish society?
Children studying the Torah today
Lawrence Migdale/Getty Images
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