As we are looking at education through the lens of Kabbalah, we must begin by defining education in Kabbalistic terms. Kabbalah considers Hebrew the language of creation and attaches great significance to the Hebrew formulations of words–their roots, sub-roots and inner meaning; therefore, we will define education by looking at the Hebrew words that connote this concept.
Hebrew has two words for education: chinuch and hadrachah. In an average Hebrew-English dictionary, we would find chinuchdefined as "training" and hadrachah as "guidance"–terms that appear almost synonymous. However, in rabbinical works, far from interchangeable, these words convey specific and distinct ideas.
To grasp the inner meanings of chinuch and hadrachah–and thus discover the meaning of education–we must first examine the roots or seed-ideas contained within them. This will shed light on the subtleties of the distinction.
The basic root of chinuch appears most frequently in the Bible in the sense of "inauguration" and "initiation." It describes the act of dedicating something to a particular purpose. For example, Psalm 30–known as Mizmor Shir Chanukat HaBayit–is an inauguration song composed by King David for the Temple in Jerusalem built by his son King Solomon. Once the Temple was built, its vessels could not be used until they were sanctified and inaugurated into their tasks. For instance, the menorah had to be sanctified and inaugurated into its role as "illuminator." The same was true for the kohanim, the priests who served in the Temple, who had to be initiated into that office before assuming their responsibilities. Although a priest is already physically capable of performing his function, he still requires an infusion of light to translate his spiritual potential into actuality.
This act of initiation draws down spiritual light. It is a ritual that awakens the recipients to a higher level of potentiality, enabling them to begin their new task. By beaming through physical, psychological and spiritual resistance, this input of light, energy, and inspiration actually transforms the person or object.
When we apply the seed ideas imbedded in the root of chinuch to education, we see that the teacher is an "initiator"–in that his task is to awaken the latent potentialities of his students. He does this by bringing down the light of knowledge to the students' level, and so inspiring them to a new way of thinking and seeing the world.
The root of the second Hebrew word for "education," hadrachah conveys a variety of meanings related to method and direction. Thus while chinuch conveys a spirit of new beginning, hadrachah implies the effort of movement and progress. In terms of education, this means that after the jolt of inspiration, follow-through is a must.
Inspiration achieves little if the students do not integrate this new awareness into their daily life–if they do not learn how to stay on the new path and avoid obstacles, make steady progress, and keep the goal in sight.