One of the greatest experiences in the lives of the Jewish People during the times that the Beis Hamikdash stood was the Hakheil gathering once every seven years. In this week’s Parsha, The Torah describes in great detail (Devarim 31:10-13) that at the conclusion of the Shemitta year, on the first day of Chol HaMoed Sukkos, all Jews – men, women and children would gather in the courtyard of the Beis Hamikdash and hear the King read most of Sefer Devarim from a Sefer Torah.
In explaining the rationale behind this mitzvah, the Sefer Hachinuch (Mitzvah 612) says that the essence of the Jewish People is the Torah. Therefore, it is only proper that everyone should gather together from time to time and hear the words of the Torah.
One of the greatest experiences … of the Jewish People … was the Hakheil gathering once every seven years. One might argue that if the goal is to put Torah front and center in people’s lives, designing a system of constant study and engagement in Torah discussions would be more appropriate than an occasional large gathering. What can be accomplished by one big fleeting event that would not be achieved more effectively through constant, small-scale but ongoing shiurim and inspiring talks?
The Sefer HaChinuch goes on to explain that when word goes out announcing the large-scale Hakheil gathering, everyone will start questioning – what is this all about? The answer that will be on everyone’s lips is that it is to hear words of Torah, which is the essence and pride and splendor of the Jewish People! This will prompt people to speak in praise of the great value of Torah, which will further a greater appreciation of Torah and instill pride within them in being a part of the Torah Nation. These exalted feelings will cause them, in turn, to invest effort in trying to gain a better understanding of the words of Hashem.
… what really motivates and inspires children is what they experience in their home and with their family. We have seen in our own times that large gatherings for the purpose of promoting Torah learning and Torah values generate great interest and excitement, and leave impressions that last for years. Such recent examples as the Siyum HaShas and the Internet Asifa created an enormous buzz that respectively inspired thousands to incorporate Daf Yomi into their daily schedule, and created an awareness to begin to think twice about the effects of unfiltered internet exposure for adults and children.
Experiential learning is of enormous value especially to our children. We are fortunate to have schools that teach children essential learning skills and inject inspiration and exciting events to make that learning most enjoyable. However, let’s make no mistake that what really motivates and inspires children is what they experience in their home and with their family.
The upcoming Yom Tov of Sukkos is a great example. Our children will learn about Sukkos in Yeshiva and will come home with many interesting facts, projects and Divrei Torah. If, however, we want our children to experience Sukkos, live it, become excited about it and ignite a passion for it, that will occur at home. Participating in building the Sukkah, helping cook and bake for the meals and parties, boys going with Abba to shop for a Lulav and Esrog, preparing and actually hanging Sukkah decorations – these will make a deep impression upon their Neshamos, way beyond the intellectual pearls they learn in Yeshiva.
…these will make a deep impression upon their Neshamos…Imagine if one’s father is actually one of the people who sell the Arba Minim to others in the community, or assists in building Sukkahs for others and the child is made a part of it – this is a priceless gift for a child. It makes the mitzvos so real, so enjoyable, and so much a part of the child’s essence.
Family trips, occasions and celebrations make deep impressions on the children as well. Are the children the focus of vacations or merely tag-alongs? Do they experience their parents actually enjoying activities with them? Do the parents share with their children their own passion or excitement for a certain destination, certain experience or a certain goal? It is safe to assume, that whatever the parent is passionate about and when they include the child in a positive way, it will be something that the child will retain a lifelong excitement about as well.
Give thought this coming Yom Tov to activities and experiences in which you can make a deep, positive impression upon your children. The impact will last a lifetime.
Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos and a Gmar Chasima Tova,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann