As we approach Sivan, excitement is palpable in the air as we prepare to celebrate Shavuos, the day on which we receive the Torah anew every year.
The Jews who left Egypt and received the Torah at the foot of Mt. Sinai lived in a “yeshiva-type” environment. Manna and the well of Miriam supplied them with food and drink, and the Clouds of Glory protected them. Well cared for materially, they could study Torah all day without worry.
But G-d wanted them to eventually enter the Holy Land, where they would need to work the fields to fulfill the various mitzvos dependent on the land. Indeed, Moshe Rabbeinu himself wanted to enter the land so badly that he uttered 515 prayers, our Sages say, to that end. But who would guarantee that they would study Torah after leaving the artificial environment of the desert and faced the pressures of working?
Thus, Hashem, the Midrash tells us, demanded guarantors before He would give the Children of Israel the Torah. At first, the people offered “our Patriarchs” as guarantors, but Hashem said no. They then offered “our Prophets,” but that option, too, was unacceptable to Him. Only when they suggested “our children” did He agree to give them the Torah.
Jewish children, particularly before the age of bar mitzvah, are effected for life when they immerse themselves in Torah study. Their bond with the Torah is particularly intense. Thus, Hashem considered them reliable guarantors that the Torah would be properly studied in the future.
This connection between the giving of the Torah and Jewish children is so significant that the Rebbe called for us to incorporate it into our annual observance of Shavuos. Our Sages say, “G-d said to the Jewish people, ‘My children: Read this passage [of the giving of the Torah] every year and I will consider it equivalent to you standing in front of Mt. Sinai and accepting the Torah.’” (Pesikta D’Rav Kahana). Since our children are our guarantors, the Rebbe said it is only appropriate that they be present when we lein the Aseres Hadibros on Shavuos. Indeed, he called on parents to bring even their young babies with them.
Why bring children to shul who are too young to understand what they are hearing? Our Sages say that when Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya, one of the greatest Tannaim, was a baby, his mother would bring him to the beis hamidrash “so that his ears would become attached to words of Torah” – a practice that his great teacher, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, later praised (Avos 2:9). If her efforts were praiseworthy despite the fact that the Torah her baby heard was the Oral Law, which normally must be understood if a mitzvah is to be fulfilled, then surely it is praiseworthy to bring children to hear the public reading of the Written Law, which doesn’t require understanding for a mitzvah to be fulfilled.
This year will be the 40th since the Rebbe issued this call for children to hear the Aseres Hadibros. Many communities hold special Torah readings to make it easier for women and young children to attend, and we should take advantage of them. May our acceptance of the Torah be the final preparation needed for the coming of Moshiach.
(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)