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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mitzvot’

Mrs. Mike’s Lasting Lesson

Friday, August 9th, 2013

What an opportunity for 15 and 16-year-old girls! Learn the mitzvot that pertain to women and win an all-expenses paid trip to summer camp for 10 days, including the roundtrip flight from Israel to San Diego, California and back.

Our daughter Shira quickly signed up.

In fact, she was so excited, that once a week, Shira would travel over two hours in each direction to Mrs. Mike, spend the evening at her house and return well after midnight, then awake the following morning before seven a.m. for another day at Ilit, the excellent Jerusalem seminary she attends.

Mrs. Mike became something of an epiphany in our house. “I have Mrs. Mike tonight,” “I’m going to Mrs. Mike…” “Mrs. Mike…”

Who was Mrs. Mike?

A twenty-something teacher, Mrs. Mike previously taught at Ilit. In memory of her father and younger sister, who had both recently passed away, she dedicated herself to creating a program (totally independent of the seminary) for 15 and 16-year-old girls. In the merit of her beloved family members, these young women learned all the mitzvot that pertain to females. Mrs. Mike researched and prepared lessons. She taught the group from the verses in the Torah, the Commentaries, Sefer haChinuch, the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer HaMitzvot and others.

Our daughter would tell us glowing stories about how Mrs. Mike made the pesukim come alive, tricks she taught them to memorize and recall the mitzvot, how each mitzvah perfectly fit women… It was as much Mrs. Mike as it was the material they were learning. Somehow, everything just clicked.

As sweet as the trip sounded, the girls didn’t learn for the prize. Mrs. Mike’s affinity to connect with each one of her talmidot, her inimitable teaching style and the masterful way she presented the mitzvot - the eleven girls drank her every word, they really learned l’shma… and became a tight-knit group of friends as well.

There was one catch, though. Mrs. Mike never dreamed she’d have eleven students coming to her house every week for a year, learning the mitzvot, memorizing them and being tested on them. She hoped to find four or five interested girls – in fact, she began because one person was willing to sponsor airplane tickets and camp for five girls. Overwhelmed with eleven, she spent the year attempting to raise funding for the extra tickets.

We, like all the parents, hoped Mrs. Mike would find sponsors for all the girls. In our eyes, Mrs. Mike is a hero, a role model for our daughter and the rest of her group. No, she didn’t walk on the moon or tightrope her way across the Grand Canyon, but, in an unassuming way, she did what she could to help Klal Yisrael, elevate the neshamot of her loved ones and positively affect the lives of those she could reach.

A modest woman, she valiantly tried to secure funding… but being an excellent educator and molder of seminary students and a talented fundraiser are two distinct creatures. As the year continued, her success in teaching was equaled by her inability to find a way to take more than five of the girls. It wasn’t Mrs. Mike’s fault, and no one was blaming her. She traveled to America, she was constantly contacting possible donors and making every effort to find the funds necessary… but she wasn’t blessed with success.

Nevertheless, her troops continued to digest the weekly lessons, confident that somehow they’d all be able to attend the camp.

Sadly, in June, she had no choice but to explain to the girls that she was forced to pick five – and only five – because she couldn’t finance more than five flights.

Missing the class for the first time all year, Shira was with us the night of the drawing, attending a family wedding. Towards the end of the simcha, Shira called a friend to find out the results. With a smile, she told us, “I didn’t win.” She took it well, very well. My disdain for lotteries (and my acumen for losing – now inherited by our daughter) grew even stronger.

Without missing a beat, Shira continued to attend Mrs. Mike’s class for the next few weeks as the school year was winding to an end. She remained as dedicated as ever. I was amazed at how well she took the disappointment and what a good soldier she was, marching onward as if nothing happened.

She even asked me to help her prepare a presentation she would be giving the mothers in English – Mrs. Mike assigned each girl a particular mitzvah to speak about.

A few weeks after the drawing, I was home, when Shira zipped past, in typical teenager style, head cocked to the phone, when I overheard her saying, “You need my passport number? O.K. Yes, I’m very excited. Thank you very, very much…”

After she hung up, I said “Shira, what was that?”

Was one of the girls unable to fly? Was Shira taking someone’s place? I was hesitant to express happiness… I didn’t want to hear Shira won while another girl would sit home disappointed – we knew that feeling all too well.

Shira responded, “Mrs. Mike called. She decided that if we fly Chanukah time instead of during the summer, tickets are much cheaper and all the girls can go… so she postponed the trip until Chanukah.”

That’s Mrs. Mike; she just couldn’t leave any of her students disappointed. I thought about the presentation I was preparing for Shira. It opened with a welcoming joke, a fascinating bit of Kabbalah, questions from Rishomin, a beautiful answer tying everything together… but maybe I’ll just shelve it and have Shira read this piece that you’re reading now –Mrs. Mike’s topic for her to speak about was v’ahavta l’re-echa kamocha – “love thy friend as thyself.”

For those interested in partnering; Mrs. Mike’s program is a U.S. tax deductible nonprofit and is authorized to give tax receipts. Checks should be made out to Ahavas Torah. In Israel, they can be mailed to Birkat Avraham 18/9, Ramat Shlomo, Jerusalem, Israel 97436 C/O Mrs.Tzirel Mike. In the U.S., checks can be mailed to 3226 Fallstaff Rd. Baltimore, MD 21215 C/O Mrs. Esther Samuel. Anyone with questions about joining next year’s course or creating a group in their own community can contact Mrs. Mike at ohryisroelproject@gmail.com

What Does It Mean to Be Jewish?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The question “What does it mean to be Jewish?” has often been asked. I suppose you could invoke the old joke “Ask two Jews a question and you’ll get three opinions” to better comprehend how different Jews would respond to this question, so when I weigh in here, I hope readers will forgive me if my opinions don’t always accord with theirs.

But the question is legitimate and should be asked. Jewish people share a common heritage and are affected by many of the same issues today. They face a world in which their religion is part of their identity; no matter how far apart they are on the religious and political spectrums (not to mention any others), they share a common bond that unites them in terms of how they relate to each other and to the outside world.

So what does it mean to be Jewish? To me, it means the following:

● To believe in God. Divine affirmation is the foundation of Judaism. Everything else comes after.

● To observe Shabbat and the various yom tovim. What could be more meaningful, spiritual, and fulfilling – more Jewish – than practicing the religious aspects of Judaism?

● To lead an honorable life. Shouldn’t we all aspire to become tzaddikim, righteous people?

● To keep kosher. Certain things just seem to go together, like lox and bagels, gefilte fish and horseradish – and being Jewish and keeping kosher.

● To do mitzvot. There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah, including the above. Carrying out mitzvot is part of our code.

● To carry on Jewish traditions. There’s life after davening, and it’s called Jewish culture. Chanukah gifts, hamantashen, and singing niggunim on Shabbat are just a few of the wonderful customs that have evolved from the religion and its people.

● To be proud of your Jewish heritage. Wear it on your sleeve – you’re a member of a tribe that has nearly 6,000 years of history.

● To feel an immediate bond with fellow Jews. Have you ever felt like you can be anywhere in the world and if you find a fellow Jew, you feel an immediate kinship?

● To involve yourself in a community of Jews. As birds of a feather flock together, it’s only natural for Jews to be immersed in a Jewish world – having Jewish friends, engaging in Jewish activities, living in Jewish neighborhoods.

● To feel a Jewish identity. Even if you’re not as religious as you could or should be, what could possibly make you more Jewish than feeling Judaism is an indelible part of your soul, or that being Jewish is simply who you are?

● To feel a special connection to Jewish history. Who can feel the pain of Jewish persecutions, expulsions, and genocides more than a Jew? Who can feel the catastrophe of the Holocaust more deeply than a Jew?

● To take great pride in Israel. Do you get the chills when you hear “Hatikvah”? After 2,000 years of Jews living in the Diaspora as a weak, defenseless, persecuted people, what greater modern miracle could there be than the resurrection of the Jewish homeland?

● To place an emphasis on education. Jewish parents may be the original “tiger moms and dads.” Perhaps that is why some professions are disproportionately populated by Jews.

● To feel empathy for the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden. You only have to consider how much we’ve suffered as a people to understand how this got into our DNA.

● To have a Jewish funny bone. You can relate to Jewish humor because you’re laughing at yourself and other Jewish people you know – and, nu, do you think there’s any shortage of Jewish foibles?

● To think in “Jewish ways.” How do Jews think? Oy vey iz mir. We think the number 18 brings good luck, so we sometimes give gifts in denominations of 18, like $36 or $180. We try to ward off the evil eye after hearing compliments or wonderful news by saying “kenohora” or mimicking spitting by going “pooh-pooh-pooh.” Oh, and there’s the proverbial Jewish guilt, as well as our inimitable designation of “mishagas” to explain a panoply of crazy behavior with a Jewish edge. Is there such a thing as a Yiddishe kop? Suffice it to say that when you do something stupid, you’re not using it.

Q & A: The Sandak (Part VI)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter.

M. Renkin
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Midrash (Tehillim pg. 723) contains the term “sandikus,” a Greek word meaning “companion of child” or “advocate.” Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech Spira of Dinov explains that sandak is an acronym of “sanegor na’aseh din kategor – the defense emerges victorious vis-à-vis the prosecutor,” referring to the brit’s function as a protection from Satan.

The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) writes that the sandak is given the first honor of being called up to the Torah, even before the mohel. The Rema explains that the sandak is compared to a kohen who offers incense in the Beit Hamikdash. All kohanim wished to benefit from the blessing of the incense, which enriched the one who offered it. Therefore, a lottery was established to assure that all had an equal opportunity to perform it. Similarly, it is customary not to give the role of sandak to someone more than once.

The Shach (Yoreh Deah ad loc. sk 22) clarifies that the Rema does not mean that a person may not serve as sandak more than once. Rather, he should not serve as sandak for more than one boy per family.

The Rema also talks about the honorary role of the kvaterin and kvater, the female and male messengers who bring the baby to the synagogue for the brit.

We quoted Rabbi Ari Enkin’s discussion of sandika’ot in his new sefer, Shu’t HaShulchani. He writes that serving as a sandak enriches one with material wealth, as well as long life full of spiritual wealth. Rabbi Enkin cites several authorities who argue that a person may serve as sandak twice; he states that the custom not to do so certainly does not apply to relatives. In fact, a father shouldn’t hesitate to serve as sandak for all of his children should he so desire. In some communities, the local rabbi is designated as the exclusive sandak for all children.

Rabbi Enkin concludes his discussion by pointing out that the custom of restricting someone from serving as sandak more than once is not found in the Talmud, and therefore is not truly binding.

We then returned to the original question about the dispute over who would serve as sandak. Proverbs (3:17) states, “Deracheha darkei noam vechol netivoteha shalom – Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” A mitzvah should bring about pleasantness and peace; if it doesn’t, it has not been fulfilled properly. Therefore, strife over the sandika’ot detracts from the full fulfillment of that mitzvah. The Rema (Yoreh De’ah 265:11) refers to sandika’ot as an actual mitzvah that one should actively pursue.

The Mechaber (supra, Yoreh De’ah 260:1) states that the right to bestow any honor or segment of the mitzvah of brit belongs to the father alone. Thus, a grandfather may not “grab” this honor for himself if it goes against the father’s wishes. Even the mitzvah of kibud av has limits, and a parent is prohibited from insisting on specific honors from his child.

Last week we cited a case discussed by Rabbi Moshe Stern, the Debreciner Rav, zt”l (Responsa Ba’er Moshe vol. 1, 60:9), in which an individual accepted sandika’ot, only to be faced with his father’s strong opposition. Rabbi Stern cites the Knesset Yechezkel (Responsum 35) who rules that a son is not duty-bound to accede to his father’s demands in such a case. The Knesset Hagedolah writes in the name of the Ohr Zarua that if a father tells his son to disregard a mitzvah without offering an explanation, the son should not to listen to him. He cites Tosafot (Bava Metzia 32a sv “d’kavod”) as a source for this ruling.

Rabbi Stern explains that in case of sandika’ot, a father might object because, as the Mechaber states (Yoreh De’ah 257:7), in any situation that involves the assumption of financial responsibilities, a mishap can occur, perhaps leading to false accusations. Rabbi Stern suggests that a father might worry that by his son serving in the capacity of sandak he is taking on some sort of financial responsibility, such as when appointed a guardian for orphans.

A Generation In Need Of Rededication

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The strength and numbers of Orthodox Jews in America have never been greater, and yet those of us concerned with Judaism’s future must admit we confront a future no less frightening than the future that was evident to Hannah’s noble sons in Modi’in all those centuries ago.

Then, Jewish ritual and belief was crushed by a dominant Greek culture that had been imposed upon but – let’s be honest – gladly borne by the Jewish populace. As much as we might want to argue otherwise, we must wrestle with the understanding that the majority of the Jews of the Hasmonean Era embraced Greek culture.

While in America there is no military or cultural imposition that demands a compromise of Jewish values or practice, there is no less of an embrace of the larger, secular, non-Jewish culture. The sad fact is we are losing many of our children. To believe otherwise is to willfully place blinders upon our eyes and shackles on our hearts. Anyone who is honest and who works with Orthodox teens – even teens who have received a yeshiva education – knows that too many do not find meaning, fulfillment or purpose in Judaism. They do not feel the beauty of Judaism, or the power of the halachot.

Instead, they chafe against a “lifestyle” they feel is restrictive and complain that being religious simply is not “fun.”

Orthodox Union President Dr. Simcha Katz outlines some examples of the malaise affecting our young people in his Jewish Action (Winter 5773/2012) article, noting how they text on Shabbat and argue that the use of the ubiquitous technology is morally indistinguishable from adults speaking in shul. He identifies an “underground” teen Shabbat culture that even allows for Friday night parties in empty houses or basements; parties organized by text or Tweet and always unsupervised; parties that often involve music and, too often, drugs and alcohol.

Was the threat to Judaism any greater during the Hasmonean Era? Was the pain Judah Maccabee felt when he looked upon his Jewish brethren any more acute than the ache a caring rosh yeshiva feels today? Yet what army do we fight to save Judaism? Where is our enemy?

Our Jewish children seem lost – determinedly so. Rather than the warmth of a small minyan, they feel embraced by their hundreds of Facebook “friends,” seemingly unable to appreciate the power of what having a true friend actually means. Imagine – hundreds of friends. More than a thousand even!

I am nearing retirement age, having lived a good life, and yet I require just the fingers of one hand to count the number of my friends; friends I know, cherish, love and respect. Hundreds of friends? Ridiculous! These are not friends. They are faceless faces; ciphers on an iPad or a smartphone. The relationship is no deeper than the pixels found on the computer monitor. These “friends” offer but a shallow glimmer of what life and relationships should be.

Those pixels shine only outward, never inward. Yet this is what draws our children.

And therein lies the challenge we face if we want to redeem this generation and to bring about a genuine rededication. How do we help our children learn to shine their light inward as well as outward?

Tractate Shabbat teaches that, “It is a mitzvah to place the Chanukah candles outside the door to one’s home, but in times of danger, it is sufficient to place the candles on one’s table [inside].” On its face, this text is a simple directive for a practical matter – the proper place for the menorah to be placed.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh – every Jew is responsible for the other. Judaism is, first and foremost, a communal expression. No Jew should live isolated from the rest of his community, nor should he be concerned only with his own existence and survival. Each Jew is obligated to reach out to his fellow Jews. In this regard, placing our menorot on the outside of our houses symbolizes this essential lesson. We bring our light to those who are still in the dark; we seek to enlighten those who have not as yet had the opportunity and privilege to be on the inside. Our light shines outward.

My Response to the Monsey Rabbi

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

An American orthodox rabbi in Monsey recently wrote a response on Facebook to a post about the importance of living in the Land of Israel. His response was as follows: “You’re in exile, too. Last I checked, there is still a mosque on the temple mount, with Arabs shooting rockets [at you].”

This is my response to him and to every orthodox Jew who shares that mistaken view.

1. There are more mitzvot here in Eretz Yisrael (E”Y) than in chu”l (the diaspora). In all other facets of life, orthodox Jews prefer to put themselves in a position to perform more mitzvot, and in a more mehudar way. Unfortunately, when trying to find a heter to not have to live in E”Y, Jews in chu”l irrationally choose gashmi’ut over ruchni’ut (materialism over spirituality). I’ve had long discussions with my American orthodox friends, and though it usually takes an hour or more, eventually they all admit that that’s exactly what they are doing. I’m sure if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that truth as well. You don’t choose to live in America as a matter of religious principle, but rather out of convenience and inertia.

2. No religious Zionist claims that the galut is over, or that it is entirely over for Jews residing in E”Y (though Rashbi said that only one kicked out of E”Y is called an exilee). Rather, the question is one of where a Torah-observant Jew should choose to live. There has always been only one legitimate reason for not living in E”Y: pikuach nefesh (preservation of life). It was indeed dangerous to travel, and dangerous to live in E”Y. But that has changed with the emergence of the State of Israel and modern travel standards, such that the pikuach nefesh argument actually supports living in Israel, which has the 3rd highest life expectancy in the world (and 2nd for men)! By contrast, according to Wikipedia, the U.S. is number 37 on the list.

As you can see, the issue of missiles, terror and war, are blown out of proportion by the media. In fact, American men on average live 4.4 years less than their Israeli counterparts. If we look at stats for just Israeli Jews, life expectancy jumps 1-2 years for men and women, while for American Jews, the stats are the same as the general population. Life here is just plain healthier than in the States, and on a number of levels. I hope one day America will be as safe and healthy a place to live as Israel, but certainly one cannot justify refusing to make aliyah based on safety or health issues.

3. I presume you are familiar with the Gemara’s position on where to live when pikuach nefesh is not a factor. If not, here is the key passage from Ketubot 100b:

“Our Rabbis taught: One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are idolaters, but let no one live outside the Land, even in a town most of whose inhabitants are Israelites; for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a god, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no god. For it is said in Scripture, To give you the Landof Canaan, to be your God. Has he, then, who does not live in the Land, no god?  But [this is what the text intended] to tell you, that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who worships idols. Similarly it was said in Scripture in [the story of] David, For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave to the inheritance of the Lord, saying: Go, serve other gods. Now, whoever said to David, ‘Serve other gods’? But [the text intended] to tell you that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who worships idols. ” 

4. Pikuach nefesh aside, there is a philosophical question of whether the Jews should be passive or pro-active in the redemption process. Rather than make the case myself, take the time to read the Vilna Gaon’s position as presented in the first chapter of Kol HaTor (found here).

Speaking Only Hebrew?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

While not naïve to believe that this is part of a constructed effort to enhance the speaking of Hebrew, its wording reminded me of the endless times that speaking to a family member or friend in the language of this article resulted in those passing by or eavesdropping saying the exact same retort as well.

While both seem to be an attempt to listen in and understand a conversation that, frankly, is none of their business, this two-word graffiti hit on a more essential issue that concerns almost any Oleh who devotedly went as Avraham  “from your land, from your birthplace, from the home of your ancestors, to the land…” (Beresheit 12:1) that is very different from whence they originated. Once the move is made, the challenge arises as to the extent of changing the habits and customs from the old country, amongst them the language in which one will speak at home (and in public) with those that comprehend your own mother tongue.

At the outset, I personally encourage and teach my rabbis and teachers in-training to learn the culture and language of the countries they will serve in the future. So too, I believe that when living in Israel, one should do all one can to learn the language of the land. In both cases, it would be almost impossible to feel the pulse of the people, and thus try to impact them, if one doesn’t speak the language of the locale.

All the more so when it comes to Hebrew. While modern Hebrew is not totally synonymous with the original “holy language,” many of the common words and terms we use are part of it. Thus, in the view of the Rambam when speaking Hebrew, one is fulfilling one of the “easy” mitzvot (Interpretation to Tractate Avot 2:1). Finally, there is no question that knowing modern Hebrew would make the study of Torah all the more easier and accessible.

Therefore, while born in the U.S., I am very happy that G-d has privileged me the ability to speak, write and teach equally in both.

Having said that, the majority of those who have made Aliyah (myself included) have decided to continue speaking in the language of their origin, be it at home or with friends.  It’s my humble opinion that, while learning the new language of the land should be encouraged, this decision is correct for a number of reasons.

First, I wouldn’t want to have an artificial conversation with a close family member or friend.   Forcing them to express themselves in Hebrew, rather than their mother tongue, in the most intimate conversations about the most private aspects of life, would be an experience that would be far from real and authentic. A home, or a profound conversation with a friend, should be a comfortable setting, where the conversation should flow naturally, something not always possible with a newly acquired language.

Second, knowing a foreign language is a useful and precious commodity to posses when living in a global village. New doors, otherwise closed, can open before an applicant for a job if one knows more than the formal language of the land. As one who is responsible for training and placing spiritual leaders around the world, I can personally attest that many families, equipped with a strong ideological motivation to “go on shlichut,” to serve their brothers and sisters abroad, is very limited to have not realized, as they don’t possess the language of the community they would like to serve.

But moreover, communities and schools around the world, together with many students visiting Israel for a short time, are sadly not the ultimate beneficiaries of quality bnei/bnot Torah families from Israel, interested in having the best of the Israeli educational system serve them for a few years, as the applicants, even when holding a foreign passport of that very country (i.e.- originating from there themselves or through their parents,) do not speak the language at a level in which a substantial impact can be placed.

Thirdly, I have argued before that the beauty of the Jewish People is its inner diversity within the boundaries of Halacha. I believe that the attempt for all to speak the same language joins other attempts since the founding of the state to have all residing in Israel be exactly the same. From the attempt to have just one state school system, to praying in one Nusach for davening in the IDF (known as Nusach Achid  or the “one” version), these attempts, amongst many, were thankfully not successful. Even Israel’s religious community today is a diverse one, and it’s my humble opinion that hearing different languages in the public thoroughfare adds to this beautiful tapestry.

Q & A: A Mother’s Mitzvah (Part III)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Question: I am a single mother of young children. Their father has shirked all his responsibilities to them. I do my best for my children, but it isn’t easy. Isn’t their father in serious violation of the Torah by neglecting his children and not making any effort to provide them an education?

No Name Please
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: We learn from a mishnah (Kiddushin 29a) that a father has certain exclusive responsibilities to his children. One of those responsibilities is teaching them Torah. The Mechaber (Yoreh Deah 245:1-6) states that it is a biblical requirement for the father to educate his son himself or hire a teacher. The Meiri (Nazir 29) learns from R. Yochanan that besides for designating a child a nazir, a woman shares the obligations of child rearing, including education, with her husband. The Shitah Mekubetzes (Nazir ad loc.) cites the Gemara (Sukkah 2b) about Queen Helena training her minor children to eat in the sukkah, indicating that a mother is also obligated to educate her children in the performance of mitzvot.

Last week we looked at several commentators who indicate that a mother is only responsible to educate her children regarding precepts they will be obligated to perform when they reach maturity, and not discretionary precepts, such as nezirut. The Chidushei Orach Mishor specifies that a mother is obligated to train her children in positive precepts but not prohibitory ones.

Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky explains that a father is actually not obligated to train his children in the performance of mitzvot but he does bear personal responsibility for his children’s transgressions; they are considered his own. It is therefore in the father’s own interest to train his children in mitzvot. A mother, however, bears no personal responsibility for her children’s transgressions.

I posited that the Torah and our sages place the responsibility of chinuch on the father because he might at times shirk his responsibility. On the other hand, a mother will naturally go to great lengths to make sure her children are educated, so no additional obligation is placed upon her.

* * * * *

After I offered my thoughts in last week’s column, I was very fortunate to find similar ideas expressed by the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zt”l (Sha’arei Chinuch p. 113). Baruch sh’kivanti l’daat gedolim! Blessed is He who directed me to the same conclusion as one of our sages!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe discusses the role of a mother in the education of her children and notes as follows: “It is important to emphasize the obligation and merits of Jewish women regarding chinuch.”

He writes, “First and foremost: The obligation of chinuch according to the strict letter of the law is the father’s responsibility.” The Rebbe cites Shulchan Aruch Harav (Orach Chayim 343:2) that the father “is obligated rabbinically to educate his sons or daughters in the observance of biblical precepts when they reach the age of chinuch.” As explained infra (sk2), this differs with each child – each according to his own level of understanding. However, the Gemara (Bava Batra 21a) sets the age at either six or seven.”

“The mother (infra sk4) is not obligated at all in her child’s regard concerning positive or negative biblical precepts. Notwithstanding this,” the Rebbe argues, “the education and the conduct of sons and daughters, especially the very young, is actually dependent to a great degree on the training of the mother, the mainstay of the house and, for all practical purposes, the preponderance of [proper] chinuch is done by her.

“Also well known is that which the Shela (Sha’ar Ha’otiot 44:1) writes: ‘Women are obligated to admonish their children, no different than the father, and even more so since they are the ones at home and more available.’

“And further, there is a greater advantage to education and admonishment when done by women as opposed to men because by nature women are more gentle and infuse more love and caring than men in the training of their children. Indeed, we have seen, especially in these recent generations, that specifically when reaching out with love [as the pasuk in Mishlei (22:6) states] ‘Chanoch la’na’ar al pi darko – Teach the lad in the manner most suited him,’ the results have the greatest success.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-a-mothers-mitzvah-part-iii/2012/10/24/

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