“And I will punish all that oppress them.” Even those responsible for
collecting charity will be punished for forcing contributions from the poor,
except for the payment of school fees so that their children can learn Torah
and Mishnah. (Midrash Rabbah, Parshas Emor 30)
A person is obligated to hire a teacher to teach his son Torah. If he does
not, the court can compel him to do so. If he is not in the city, his
property can be appropriated to cover the cost. If a person is so poor that
he is unable to pay school fees, the rabbis require the community to bear
the cost of teaching his children.
Many do not realize the importance of paying school fees, and, after
spending money on other things, claim that they lack the means to pay.
Paying for the Torah education of a son should have the highest priority,
for a father is obligated by the Torah to teach his son Torah. If he is
unable to teach his son himself, he can fulfil his obligation by paying a
teacher. When the teacher whom a father hires instructs his son, it is as
though he were instructing his son himself. A father that does not pay the
school fee nullifies this positive commandment of the Torah. His son is
being educated by others, not by him.
When school fees are paid on time, the father fulfils the positive
commandment of “pay him his due on its day,” for then the principal of the
school can pay his teachers on time. This also benefits the students, for
when the teachers are paid on time, and their financial affairs are in
order, they are more at ease and better able to teach.
“A person’s income for the year is fixed on Rosh Hashanah except for fees
paid to teach his sons Torah. If they are diminished, his income is
diminished. If they are increased, his income is increased.” (Betizah 16a)
In many seforim it is written that when a father pays his school fees on
time, it is a sign that his son will be a talmid chacham and yarei
If a father fails to pay the school fee to teach his son Torah, the teacher
must nevertheless continue to teach his son.
Even if a teacher is not paid on time, it is forbidden for him to arrive
late to school or to neglect his teaching is any way.