By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern
The Chafetz Chaim states that the mitzvah of educating one’s children is equal to every other mitzvah, including learning Torah. The following story told by Rabbi Yechiel Yakovson, a prominent educator in Eretz Yisrael, illustrates this point:
A mother was having extreme difficulty managing her children during the morning and evening hours. Her husband was a big masmid, and claimed that he couldn’t spare any more time to help her without disrupting his learning schedule.
When the matter was brought to my attention, I told the father the following: my experience has taught me that you are on the verge of creating a dangerous situation in your home. Unless you devote more time to your wife and children, they will feel neglected, and you are in danger of ruining your children. Moreover, if you don’t invest time in your children now, you will have to invest ten times as much time in the future, with only a tenth of the success.
If you don’t invest time in your children now, you will have to invest ten times as much time in the future, with only a tenth of the success.
I suggested, however, that we discuss this issue with Rav Aharon Leib Steinman in Bnei Brak. When we presented the matter to Rav Steinman, his first reaction was to try and find a solution by altering the father’s learning schedule. When this wasn’t successful, Rav Steinman told the father, “What I’m going to say may cause you to laugh, but it is no laughing matter. It pains me to have to say this to you, but you should not daven Shacharis in order to help your wife.
The father stared stupefied at the rav, uncertain if he had heard him correctly. Rav Steinman continued, “If you’re worried about the mitzvah of tefillin, then you may put on tefillin and say krias shma, no more. You may be wondering why this is so painful for me. What pains me is that you don’t understand such a simple concept. Your avodas Hashem in life is not just to have children; you have a personal obligation to take care of them. That is no less important in Hashem’s eyes than Torah study.”
Rav Steinman was brought to tears by the fact that he had to tell a talmid chacham such a simple concept
After the bewildered father left Rav Steinman’s apartment, Rav Steinman remarked to Rabbi Yaakovson that he is brought to tears by the fact that he had to tell a talmid chacham such a simple concept.
On another occasion, a father claimed that he could not help his wife take care of their children during the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkos because he needed to shop for a lulav and esrog. Rav Steinman reprimanded him by telling him that it was not necessary for him to have his own lulav and esrog. He could fulfil his obligation just as well by borrowing someone elses’s lulav and esrog. However, no one else can fulfil your obligation of chinuch habanim