Rebecca Masinter

Nitzavim and Veyelech - A Mother's Inspiration

In both Parshiyos Nitzavim and Vayelech we have gatherings of the entire Jewish people, men, women, and children. In Nitzavim everyone entered into a covenant with Hashem, and in Vayelech there is the mitzvah of Hakhel that everyone must hear the words of the Torah all together as a nation. Interestingly, in both mitzvos, the Ramban, quoting Chazal, brings two reasons for bringing along even the smallest children. One is for the benefit of the children themselves who will hear the Torah reading ask their parents for explanations, and their parents will educate them about the Torah. Everything a child sees, hears, and experiences makes an impact. We all know how highly impressionable a young child is - here parents are reminded to take advantage of their children's openness, curiosity, and sensitivity by including them in impactful spiritual activities. When we say shema with a baby, wash their tiny hands negel vaser, help our child bench lulav or light Chanukah candles, we’re doing exactly what the Ramban teaches here - being mechanech our children, inspiring their curiosity, leading them to ask us questions, and giving us natural opportunities to explain, inspire, and teach them about our faith and Torah. But there is a second reason to include children in these gatherings. The Ramban brings it from the Gemara Chagiga and that is in order to give reward to the parents who bring them. It isn’t only the children who benefit from being included in communal spiritual gatherings, the parents who bring them also benefit. Truly? Have you ever tried to bring a child to Shofar blowing? For many of us, our kavanos and concentration on the Shofar are significantly less focused when we're holding a 2 year old, then when we are alone. Including children in mitzvos seems to detract from the intensity of the mother's experience, not enhance it! Rav Nosson Adler explains this is exactly why the Torah promises extra reward to those who bring their children. We may feel that bringing our children to Hakhel detracts from our ability to be present and our own spiritual growth, but the Torah guarantees us the opposite. “Litein sachar lim’vieihem” to bring reward to those who bring them. This reward may be intangible, but there is an element we do experience directly in our lives. As mothers, when we do mitzvos ourselves we are often rushed and do them automatically. Have you ever finished a meal and then sat there, unsure of whether you benched or not? But when we teach our children mitzvos, when we sit at the table and bench out loud with them, when we sing davening with them, even if we’re doing it only for them - we’re not benching or davening ourselves, we make time to sing the words slowly and we can be more present and feel a deeper level of connection to Hashem than we do in our own rushed bentching or davening time. It’s true for many mitzvos - when we tell our children about Rosh Hashanah, read them stories, bake challos, we’re not only teaching them, we’re inspiring ourselves too! Our relationship to the mitzvah is enhanced because we’ve shared it with our children. Singing songs, davening together, reading books - when mothers share Torah with their children, we’re not detracting from our own spirituality, we’re enhancing it. You can’t inspire someone else without being inspired yourself. And so, there is a two-fold message in these Parshiyos. Yes, we give our children powerful experiences of Torah for their sake, and we also do it for our sakes because the very act of transmitting Torah to our children, also instills it deeper into us. May we all enter into a Yom Tov season filled with inspiration for our children and ourselves!