Ritual Wisdom 1-22-2021
In this week’s Torah reading, Bo, we will read about the Exodus from Egypt. It took about a year from the time Moshe first approached Paharoh to demand to let the Jewish people go until he actually let them leave. It also took Ten Plagues to convince Pharaoh that it was in his best interest to let them go.
Even when Pharaoh already agreed to let them go, he insisted that the young children stay behind. In the beginning of the reading, the Torah tells us that Moshe and Aaron came to Pharaoh and delivered G-d’s message, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go!”
Pharaoh said to Moshe and Aaron, “Go, serve the L-rd your G-d; but tell me who will be going?” Moshe replied, “With our young and with our old we will go, with our sons and with our daughters.”
Pharaoh angrily replied, “Not so; only the men can go and serve the L-rd.” But when Moshe insisted that the young will also have to come, they were “driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.” It took three more plagues, Locust, Darkness and the Plague of the First Born, before Pharaoh let them go.
Here we see the importance the Torah places on our youth. Throughout the Torah we find how important it is to educate our children from a very young age. Children are our assurance of Jewish continuity.
The importance of teaching children was again emphasized at the Giving of the Torah. The Midrash relates that G-d agreed to give the Torah to the Jewish people only after they firmly committed to educate their children and teach them Torah. According to Halacha (Torah law), as soon as a child begins to speak, we must teach them to recite words of Torah.
- Pharaoh only objected to the young going to serve G-d. Therefore, Moshe should have answered, “with our young we will go.” Why did Moshe reply, “With our young and with our old we will go?”
- Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk says that with these words, Moshe explains to Pharaoh the importance of taking the children to serve G-d.
If our young will serve G-d, we will also have our old serving G-d. But if we don’t concentrate on our youth, we will eventually not have any older people either. This is why he told Pharaoh, “With our young and with our old we will go.” King Solomon says in Proverbs, “Educate the young according to their level, for then even when they become old they will not turn from it.”
The importance of educating our youth in teachings of the Torah is seen from the following Jewish law: “One may not interrupt the study of school children even for the construction of the Holy Temple.”
The Talmud also says, “A city that has no school in which children learn Torah will not endure.”