On the words “and G-d saw…our toil” (Devarim 26:7), our Sages comment in the Pesach Haggada: “This means the children.”
Bringing up children (and students, who are also called children [Sifre]) constitutes toil and hard work – even if they are naturally obedient and refined. True education, at all levels, requires continuous toil and labor.
But if we invest as much effort as we can into our children’s Jewish education – even under difficult circumstances – our children will grow up to be those who “recognize [G-d] first” as our Sages (Sotah 11b) say about the last generation of Jewish children brought up in Egypt under the shadow of Pharaoh’s evil decree. At the splitting of the Yam Suf, it was these children who first pointed to the revelation of the Divine – not Moshe, Aharon, or the elders.
This lesson about raising Jewish children doesn’t just apply to parents and educators. It applies to everyone. It is said in the name of the Alter Rebbe (author of the Tanya and Shulchan Aruch HaRav) that the order of the Torah is itself Torah. Hence, the fact that the very first mitzvah in the Torah is “be fruitful and multiply” (Bereishis 1:28) teaches us that the first Torah fundamental is “making another Jew” – physically and/or spiritually. Every one of us, whether or not we are parents, has the obligation to set our fellow Jews on the right path.
Every Jew is obligated to fulfill the mitzvah of reproving his fellow Jew out of love. We don’t seek out faults in people to tell them off, but we should always look for ways to help set people on the right path while we ourselves serve as shining personal examples.
As is well known, the Rebbe introduced 10 Mitzvah Campaigns on which to concentrate our efforts in bringing Jews closer to the Torah. One of them was “mitzvah chinuch” – the campaign to ensure that every Jewish child and adult receives a Torah education. Whenever the Rebbe mentioned this campaign, he always called it “education of oneself and others.” For true education starts with working on oneself to advance ever further in Yiddishkeit. Only then is one properly equipped to influence others.
Yet, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that only when we have advanced to the fullest extent of our capabilities can we influence others. By demanding truthfully of ourselves, we are able to set an example for others to emulate and can influence them to follow in our footsteps, even if we have not yet perfected ourselves.
All of us must become involved in strengthening Jewish education, particularly of children and youth, whether financially or through other means. Education continues throughout one’s life, but the main period, the Rebbe emphasized, is during childhood and youth before one is limited by responsibilities such as earning a living and bringing up a family.
If we act, then just as the last generation of children in Egypt were privileged to experience the great Geulah and subsequent Divine revelation at Mount Sinai, so too the children of this generation, in whom we invest the required effort, will experience the ultimate Geulah and point to the great Divine revelation of Moshiach, may he come now.
(Based on teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)