Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Take Them With You

by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

In Parshas Bo we read how Moshe Rabbeinu repeatedly implored Paroh to permit the Jewish people leave the land of bondage.

After several plagues, the king relented and said he would let the men travel a distance of three days to bring a few korbanos and then return.

But Moshe was not satisfied. He told Paroh, “We will go with our young and with our old; with our sons and daughters.”

Moshe Rabbeinu’s response to Paroh brings to mind the Gemorah in Masechta Chagigah which discusses the mitzvah of Hakhel; the gathering of Klal Yisroel - men, women and children - at the Bais HaMikdosh.

The Gemorah poses the obvious question: what purpose was there in bringing small children to the Bais Hamikdosh? What possible benefit could there be from having toddlers running around there? What can infants gain from an experience they can’t participate in and will soon forget?

Rav Elozor ben Azaryah answered that the purpose in having children come is Leetain S’char L’mevi’eihem - to give reward to those who bring them.

A hint of what that means can be discerned from the words of Tosafos who comments that the practice of bringing small children to shul is based on this answer. So, obviously, Rav Elozor ben Azaryah doesn’t mean that the reward is for the act of shlepping cranky kids on a long journey to Yerushalayim. There is more to it than that. A lot more.

If you examine that Gemorah a little deeper you will notice how the Gemorah came to repeat the drasha of Rabi Elozor ben Azarya. The talmidim came to visit Rav Yehoshua in Pekiin and he asked them what chidush they had heard the past Shabbos. They answered that there were no chidushim. Unable to believe their response, he prodded them further, until they finally told him the drasha of Rav Elozor ben Azaryah on “Taf, Lomoh Heim Bo’im, why are small children brought to the Mikdash?”

Rav Yehoshua was so taken by the drasha that he said to them, “Margolis Kazoo Hoysoh B’yedchem - You had such a pearl, such a tremendous insight into the posuk with you, and you attempted to keep it from me?! How could you have done that?”

What was it about Rav Elozor ben Azaryah’s drasha that so captivated Rav Yehoshua?

The mishna states in Pirkei Avos, Perek Bais, mishna yud and yud aleph: Raban Yochanan ben Zakai had 5 talmidim whose attributes he would list as follows: Rav Eliezer ben Horkanus forgets nothing; Rabi Yosi Hacohein, chosid; Rabi Shimon ben Nesanel, yerei cheit; Rabi Elazar ben Aruch, ma’ayan hamisgaber, and Rabi Yehoshua ben Channanya, ashrei yeladeto.

There is a striking inconsistency in this list. One talmid is a chosid, one has a phenomenal memory, one is afraid of sin, one is a gushing fountain; these are all attributes belonging to the great talmidim of Raban Yochanan ben Zakai. But the fifth appellation, ashrei yeladeto - praised be the one who gave birth to him - is not an attribute. That is a shevach, a praise for his parents who not only gave birth to him but raised him to be the great Tana, Rabi Yehoshua. But it does not describe the greatness of Rabi Yehoshua.

The Talmud Yerushalmi relates that even as an infant, Rabi Yehoshua was brought by his mother to the bais hamedrash so that his ears would hear divrei Torah.

The Meshech Chochma explains that this is precisely the reason why Rabi Yehoshua was so excited with the drasha on Taf Lama Heim Bo’im. His own mother had made a practice of bringing him to the bais medrash even as a tiny tot to suffuse him with Torah.

She did this in spite of the inevitable critics and naysayers who admonished her for bringing a baby to the bais medrash when there was nothing for him to do there. They said it served no purpose. “Who needs little kids running around in shul?”

But here, in Rabi Elozor ben Azaryah’s drasha, was her vindication. No wonder her son, R’ Yehoshuah was so excited with this “gem.”

Let’s go a little further now and analyze what is meant by “Leetain S’char L’mevi’eihem - to bring reward to those who bring them.”

Consider the appellation “ashrei yeladeto” that Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai used to describe Rabi Yehoshua. What he was saying was more than “praised be the one who gave birth to him.” With this expression, he was alluding to a lot more than the literal meaning of the words.

What he was saying was that the one who gave birth to him did far more than just give him life. She didn’t just raise him well. She shlepped him to the bais medrash from infancy, and that is the reason he grew up to be the great Tana.

His outstanding attribute was the very fact that he was raised in kedusha. Ashrei yeladeto. Praised be the one who gave birth to him and brought him up like that.

And this may be the explanation for “Leetain S’char L’mavi’eihem.” The little ones are brought so that those who bring them will earn a reward.

What is the reward? The reward is that the children will grow up to be exceptional people whom others will point to and say “Ashrei Yeladeto.”

Their parents will be singled out for praise whenever one looks at their child. It will be obvious that the child was surrounded by kedusha, by holiness, and all good things from an early age.

That is what Moshe Rabbeinu told Paroh. We are going for three days to offer up karbanos to the Ribono Shel Olam, “Kee Chag Hashem Lanu.” We are going to celebrate a holiday. But how are we going to do that? Only with our children by our sides.

We aren’t leaving them behind in the decadence of Mitzraim. For even if they have no clue as to what is going on; even if they make the trip difficult for us, “b’nareinu uvizkeineinu neilech.” The only way our old people will go is if the young ones are there right by their sides.

We want to bring up a generation of children who will receive the Torah. We want G-dly children.

We want children in the merit of whose Torah the world exists.

We want children upon whom others will say “Ashrei Yeladeto.”

The only way that can happen is if they come along with us on our journey, whether or not they comprehend what is going on.

The only way we can have a true “Chag Hashem,” a G-dly celebration, is if our children are with us.

And that’s what Tosafos means in Chagigah.

He is saying that the same holds true today.

If we want to have good kids, don’t toxify their kedusha. Take them with you to shul. Make sure they don’t disturb others. Sit them down there next to you. Give them a lollipop or two. Let them hear Divrei Torah whether they understand them or not.

Remember Rabi Yehoshua’s mother. Think what they said about her when he was very little. Think what they said about her when he was very big.

Remember what Raban Yochanan ben Zakai said about Rabi Yehoshua.

Leetain S’char L’mivi’eihem.

Ashrei Yeladeto.

Halevai oif unz gezukt.


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