By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern
This shiur, the second in the chinuch (education) series, is a continuation of the previous audio shiur describing the prerequisites of child-raising. We are further expanding on the words of our great rebbi and mentor, Rav Avigdor Miller, who would echo the concept of chazal (sages) who state that one of the greatest mitzvos in the Torah is raising a family.
As with all mitzvos, we must first clarify the parameters and the parents’ responsibility of child raising, of chinuch habanim. The first mitzvah in the Torah is “peru u’revu” (Bereishis 1:28), generally translated as “be fruitful and multiply”. However, the Shelah (Shaar Ha’osiyos – derech eretz) and the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 131) write that the purpose of this mitzvah is to raise children who will live lives of Torah and mitzvos, and not simply to bring them into the world.
Tosfos in Bava Basra (13a) terms this mitzvah as a mitzvah rabbah, a great mitzvah, because the more Jews there are in the world, the more mitzvos will be fulfilled. This concept is also indicated by the halacha in Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 1:2) that permits the selling of a sefer Torah to provide financial means for a couple to get married.
Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch (Bereishis 1:22) explains that this concept is actually implied in the words of the Torah. He explains that “peru” is related to the word pri, the fruit of a tree. Peru simply refers to bringing children into the world. Revu, however, implies the responsibility of raising children to be morally and spiritually upright individuals. Not only do children replicate the physical traits of their parents, they replicate their spiritual, intellectual and moral selves as well.
Accordingly, he writes, parents have to plant spiritual and moral seeds in their children, and carefully nurture their development. They must form and educate and cultivate them. “Revu” demands the founding of a home and a family, the nursery for human education.
This responsibility is clearly stated by the Chafetz Chaim, (Chomas Hadas, 2:3) who equates the obligation of raising children to the requirement of fulfilling any of the taryag mitzvos, including Talmud Torah, reciting krias shema and davening shmoneh esrei.
He writes as follows: “Just as it’s the obligation of each and every Jew to learn Torah, daven krias shema and shmoneh esrei and to fulfil all the mitzvos, it’s even a greater mitzvah on each parent to designate time to supervise the chinuch of the children, in order to ensure that they follow the ways of our forefathers.