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Child Raising

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Everyone in the universe wants his or her child to be “the best”; the only question is: the best what? Our people, Am Yisroel, focuses on kedusha and Torah, so we naturally look for all kinds of berachos and segulos to make our children gedolei Torah and yarei Shamayim. In that spirit let’s look into a critical question:

What does it take to merit children like Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Hakohen?!

I’m going to give you the secret, and I daven that we all can apply it and put it to good use, to see greatness and yiddishe nachas from our children!

A person’s greatness is almost never entirely self-made.  Much more often the gedulah, the nobility of character and the middos that have pushed this individual and allowed him or her to blossom developed out of the many different experiences he or she had over a lifetime. We know that hergel na’asah teva (frequent repetition of a thing makes it into second nature) and girsah d’yankusa  (a child’s learning) is never shaken off, so it’s only reasonable that the greatest influence on a person comes from his or her parents.

Imagine Amram and Yocheved, the parents of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon Hakohen.  We know who they were, but what do we know of their child-raising techniques?  What was the central pillar of their home that helped foster these two spiritual giants?

Let’s try and get a small glimpse at the gadlus of Yocheved. We know that Pharoh decreed that she and her daughter, Miriam, the midwives of the Jewish people, were to kill all the Jewish boys at birth. Where did these two women get the strength to defy the greatest, most powerful ruler of their time? The pasuk says “Vatireina hamiyaldos es HaElokim, the midwives feared Hashem” (Shemos 1:17). Their yiras Shamayim would not allow them to perform such a terrible crime, no matter what the penalty might be. And what was Hashem’s reward to them for this great yiras Shamayim? The Midrash tells us that Yocheved gave birth to Moshe Rabbeinu and Miriam to Betzalel, who built the Mishkan.

This Midrash is clearly telling us that yiras Shamayim, fear of Hashem, is a key component to merit children such as Moshe Rabbeinu.

Reb Yerucham Levovitz zt”l, the renowned Mirrer Mashgiach, explains to us that fear of Hashem is not something that we either have or don’t; it is a trait that we can (and must!) acquire, reinforce and expand. Our obligation is to build our yiras Shamayim.  Just think of how much Yocheved and Miriam had to work on themselves to build up to their levels of yiras Shamayim, a lofty bastion that could stand up to the threats of Pharoh, the most powerful, commanding and terrifying (flesh and blood) ruler in the world.

What is one of the first things we teach our children to say first thing each and every morning? “Reishis Chochma Yiras Hashem,” the first element in wisdom is the fear of Hashem.

But how does this yiras Shamayim produce a Moshe Rabbeinu or a Betzalel?  The pasuk tells us “Vayehi kivayaas lahem battim, and it was because the midwives feared Hashem that He made for them houses.”  What are these houses? The Gemara (Sotah 11b) says that these were houses of Kehuna and Leviya (priesthood, from Yocheved), and Malchus (royalty, from Miriam, who married into the tribe of Yehuda) and the action that merited these huge rewards was their fear of Hashem.

Why are these virtual empires called “houses?” I believe it is because a house is much more than four walls and a roof, not just a place in which we eat and sleep. A house is the environment we create for ourselves, an empire that expresses who we truly are.  When a child says, “I want to go home,” he is talking about a whole set of things: his mother’s love and support, his father’s strength and humor, the care and concern of those around him, the smells of the kitchen, the pictures on the wall – the whole environment. Yocheved and Miriam’s home was suffused with yiras Shamayim; it permeated the entire house.  This was the atmosphere in which Moshe Rabbeinu was raised – and even though he was only there for two years, it was enough to protect him with a solid Jewish identity and a way of relating to the palace of Pharoh (where he was raised by Basya) such that he was not influenced by the wickedness and evil of Pharoh and the Egyptian royal court.

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About the Author: Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is Associate Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Passaic Torah Institute, Passaic, NJ.


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