Parashas Vayelech

Dear Parents,

Journeying through the Aseres Yemei HaTeshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance, we are hopefully looking to make Kabolos – resolutions, to improve in different areas of our lives, to merit forgiveness from Hashem. After years of making resolutions and perhaps falling short, we may be reluctant to take on something that either we lack determination to fulfill, or is something extremely difficult to sustain.

An area that should be considered, because of its importance, is in how we are raising our children.

This week’s Parsha (Devarim 31:12) instructs the Jewish People in the mitzvah of Hakhel. Once in seven years, on the first day of Chol Hamoed Succos following a Shemitah year, everyone is to gather to hear the king read Sefer Devarim from a Sefer Torah. The Torah says everyone should come, enumerating men, women and children, even young children.

The Gemara (Chagiga 3a) asks “for what purpose are the young children in attendance?” The Gemara answers in order to give reward to those who bring them. Analyzing the thinking behind the Gemara’s question, one can easily deduce that there is apparently no gain from the children coming, since they won’t understand what is going on, hence the question.

Interestingly, the Sfas Emes (quoted in Aleinu L’Shabeiach p.431) extends the question as follows: The children are not only not going to understand, but they are likely to make noise and disturb the adults, preventing them from hearing the Torah reading. Why then, do the small children come? Wouldn’t it be better to leave them at home?

The Gemara’s answer “in order to give reward to those who bring them” can now be understood – better that the parents should be disturbed a bit by the presence of the children, if the result will be that the children will absorb at least the sound of the Torah and thereby be drawn to the service of Hashem. From here we see that sometimes one has to give up some of his own spiritual growth in order to be mechanech his or her children properly and to teach them to be G-d-fearing Jews.

How often do we parents feel that the burdens of making a Parnassah prevent us from spending sufficient time with the children? We are constantly busy and therefore don’t have much time left for the children. Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, applying the explanation of the Sfas Emes, that it is worthwhile for the children to come even if they disturb the parents, gives us an entirely new perspective: If we parents are obligated to sacrifice some of our spiritual growth for the sake of the children, then how much more are we obligated to minimize our material pursuits for the sake of the children.

We parents are prone to justifying the lack of time we have available for our children is precisely because we are working so hard on their behalf. What better time than now, a few days before Yom Kippur, to honestly re-examine our schedules and priorities, and resolve to be more available to our children. Even `small’ things can make a huge impact, such as showing them the place in the siddur though it distracts from our own concentration, showing genuine, sustained interest in projects and Divrei Torah they bring home from school, learning with them in place of going to a shiur, involving them in our chesed activities even though it means it will take more time and will limit our projects.

We, and they, will be richly rewarded.

Best wishes for a wonderful Shabbos and a Gmar Chasima Tova,

Rabbi Kalman Baumann

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