As we begin to read Sefer Vayikra this Shabbos, we are reminded of how we express our yearning, at every opportunity for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the renewed opportunity to bring Korbanos, sacrifices. What are Korbanos? They are a physical manifestation of our attempt to connect with Hashem – as the name implies – Korban – to bring korov – close. We give up something of ours, dedicate it to Hashem, and thereby strengthen our relationship.
What means do we use nowadays, when we do not have the opportunity to approach Hashem in this manner? We have Tefilla – Avoda Shebalev – the service of the heart. It is a much greater challenge to maintain focus on approaching Hashem without the assistance of a physical prop, so to speak. With a korban, standing in the awesomeness of the Beis Hamikdash – it was relatively easy to feel a closeness to Hashem as one gave up something of value, that could be seen and felt. In our times, we are called upon to approach Hashem, purely through concentrating our hearts and words, something that requires much greater focus.
If Tefilla is a challenge for adults, how much more so for the children. With at best a bare-bones understanding of the meaning of Tefilla, we ask the children to say words that they do not understand, for an extended period of time, and it is a formidable task. How can we help? What can parents do to make Tefilla more meaningful to their children?
One could set about teaching the meaning and intent of the words in davening – but that is not a recommended approach for the vast majority of parents – for a variety of reasons. Leave that up to us in school. However, there is one thing that all of us can do – demonstrate in word and deed, that Tefilla is IMPORTANT! This does not occur through sermons and reprimands. It does not occur through cajoling and sticker charts. True teaching comes through role modeling. If Tefilla is important to you, don’t rush through it. If Tefilla is important, texting, e-mailing and talking on your phone have absolutely no place while davening. If you truly feel the importance of Tefilla – make it to Minyan even when it’s difficult. And, if Tefilla is truly important to you -don’t talk in shul.
Smart principles of Chinuch must be applied to our young developing daveners. Bringing them to shul before they’re ready will teach them to not have reverence for a holy place. Forcing them to say words of davening that are meaningless to them, will cause irreparable harm to any future interest in Tefilla. Let the children’s interest and enthusiasm for davening guide you – even if your child spends much less time on daily Tefilla than you feel is appropriate – don’t pressure them. If they seem to speed through davening – appreciate that they went through the motions, and demonstrate without fanfare, how it should be done.
Part of our daily Tefilos include beseeching Hashem to bring us back to the glorious days of bringing Korbanos. Let us show our children what an opportunity and zechus it is to be able to approach Hashem through Tefilla even though we currently don’t have the privilege of Korbanos. If we do a good job davening, Hashem will undoubtedly bring us and our children up to the next level, as in the days of old, IY’H.
Best wishes for an uplifting and spiritually satisfying Shabbos,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann