The Mitzva of Chinuch Habanim is one of the foundations of Judaism. The Torah writes that Avraham Avinu was endeared to Hashem because “He will command his children and household to keep the ways of Hashem, doing charity and justice.” (Breishis 18:17-19, Rashi ad loc.)
Rav Elya Lopian comments (Lev Eliyahu ad. loc.) that even though Avraham had already passed ten nisyonos (tests) and kept the entire Torah, including the mitzvos d’rabbanan – Rabbinic ordinances (Yoma, 28b, Rashi Bereishis, 26:5),nevertheless, the Torah attributes his endearment because he transmitted the Torah tradition to his children.
The first mitzvah of the Torah is “Pru u’revu” (Bereishis 1:28). This is generally translated as “be fruitful and multiply” and simply meaning to have many children. The Shelah Hakadosh (Shaar Ha’osyos – Derech Eretz ; cf Shulchan Aruch O.C. # 231), writes that the purpose of the mitzvah is to raise children in Torah and mitzvos. Chazal term this commandment a “mitzva rabba” – a great mitzva, because the more Jews that are in the world, the more mitzvos will be fulfilled. (Tosafos Bava Basra 13b s.v. Kofin; Sefer HaChinuch mitzva #1. This is also indicated by the halacha that permits the selling of a Sefer Torah [Torah Scroll] to provide financial means for a couple to get married- Shulchan Aruch E.H. 1:2.)
Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch (Commentary to the Torah, Bereishis 1:2) explains how this concept is actually implied in the Torah’s words. He writes, “Pru simply means to have children, like pri – fruit of a tree. However, revu implies something greater. The children are to be replicas not only of the physical and bodily traits of their parents, but also of their spiritual, intellectual and moral selves. Accordingly, parents have to plant the spiritual and moral best of themselves in their children and carefully nurture their development. They must form, educate and cultivate them. Revu demands the founding of the home and the family, the nursery for human education.”
Thus, a child is born into a family not only for his material needs, such as love, food, clothing and shelter, but also to guide and mold his personality. The obligation of parents is to pour themselves into their children by raising, molding and creating a Jewish family.
This responsibility is clearly stated by the Chofetz Chaim who equates the parents’ child raising obligation to the mitzvos of Talmud (Studying) Torah, reciting Kriyas Shma and davening Shemona Esrei. He writes:
“Just like it is an obligation to learn Torah and daven Kriyas Sh’ma and Shemonah Esrei, and to fulfill all the mitzvos, it is an even greater mitzva for each parent to designate time to supervise the chinuch of their children in order to ensure that they follow in the ways of our forefathers.” (End of Sefer Chomas Hadas)
Due to our very hectic lives, busy schedules, personal involvements and pressures of earning a livelihood, parents sometimes forget that they have to be mechanech (educate & raise) their children! When Hashem gives us the wonderful gift of a child, it comes with a tremendous responsibility of raising him to lead a life of Torah, mitzvos & midos tovos (good character traits).
Main points to work and focus on:
1) There are no easy solutions for successful child-raising. Like any other business, the more effort parents invest, the more nachas they will have.
2) Transmitting Torah values to children is a vital part of child- raising.
Text Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern and Torah.org