There are many books written about the role that education of our children plays in Judaism, yet in fact it’s impossible to sum it up; it’s just part and parcel, the fabric of what Judaism is. It’s front and center in each of the holidays - on Purim it’s kids who saved us, the Passover Seder is all one big answer to the four questions, Chanukah in fact shares the root word with the Hebrew word for education, and so on. Prominent Jewish leaders gave their lives in their work of passing down our traditions to the next generation. The Talmud tells us the world only continues to go on thanks to the voices of children learning Torah. Rashi, the primary commentator across the spectrum of Torah, teaches that the subject of the verse in Psalms ‘Don’t interfere with my anointed ones’ is actually the children. The children are ‘my’, G d’s, anointed ones. My, G d’s, 'moshiach'.
One of the areas where science and Torah are aligned is when it comes to the subtle influence which surroundings play on the subconscious of a growing child. Most of us relate to spiritual ideas as abstract, if at all, however a baby is in a unique position where the laws of physics are equally as novel; their reality remains to be defined. So as a child is receptive and hungry, it becomes our responsibility to share with our children spiritual nourishment for their growing souls. To provide for them beyond our means. A child’s ‘G d’ is more of a reality than any devout adult will ever believe in.
A parent wants the best for their child. So we look to harness the minds of our children for vocational training from the cradle; we open them a bank account and so on. We can also renew the emphasis on right and wrong — the core values which bind families and communities together — and we can give our children a siddur, which has inside prayers and blessings, as our own silent prayer that the blessing which these children are, my Moshiach, should bind the world together with a moral, spiritual foundation.
We therefore set out to renew the campaign for each and every Jewish child to own their own Siddur, and to use the siddur, and for the parents to read the prayers to the children from the siddur, and to love and cherish the siddur, and to take lessons from the Torah passages within the siddur. And to make blessings, announcing that G d is king of the world: even if we can outsmart the policeman, there’s still someone who takes interest in how one leads their life. And he created not just this water which I’m grateful to be able to drink, but in fact everything: all existence starts from one unified source.
We’re not stopping with the siddur- for Passover, a night centered upon arousing curiosity for Judaism within our children, it’s an imperative for each and every kid to have their own Haggadah, their very own copy which they proudly write their name in. And teaching kids to share starts from the tzedakka box which is their own. And, as learning Torah each day is not something exclusively targeted to the adult population, even the smallest children must have some number of books which belong to them.
And so on, where even those books which a child may not yet read bring that bookshelf feeling to their room.
The Torah says veasu li mikdash, the literal translation is I will dwell within each one of them. A small Jewish child, as soon as a baby is born, in his little heart lies the entire G d, G d whom the entire heavens and earth of course can never contain. And that child is G ds emissary, who He planted here, G ds man on the ground, to let his light shine beyond himself, and veasu li mikdash, to build him a house in the lowest parts of creation.
A child’s room houses many things. First and foremost the child himself. Then there’s his bed. Her table where she eats. The siddur to make the blessing on the food before he eats. The tzedakka box to share his food with those who have less. His books on the shelf to help a child grow — a child who’s in a sense defined by the fact that he grows. The mezuzah on the wall to remind the child that god watches over his room and everything inside, including him himself, and even when he’s outside.
And G d forbid, a lacking in these objects would never subtract from all that the child is, but one can always have more. To the extent that the light within this child turns his room into another Jerusalem, and from their his entire house, and his neighbors. And when Chanukah comes he asks his parents to buy him more books. Because just like the parents need a house, the child’s unique set of spiritual needs are brought out within this space which is his own. And he will therefore be comfortable when one day the Jewish people approach the temple in Jerusalem, since it matches his very own room. And just as the kids of our ancestors in Egypt were the first to recognize their freedom back then, so too we have the opportunity today to raise children with spiritual sensitivity, who will go on to bring out the good and the G dly throughout our physical world throughout all the long years of lives.
The discussion never ends, and the children will never stop growing. The more that can be done to engage them, and from the youngest age, will benefit them and the world around them, a ripple effect, which will never stop growing. So let’s speed it up, let’s push the snowball down the hill and watch what it becomes.
And maybe the parents will pray in a way only a child can.