12 Cheshvan 5779 / Sunday, October 21, 2018 | Torah Reading: Va'era
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The Holiness of Our Children    

The Holiness of Our Children

So many factors, including the thoughts of the parents, influence a child before birth, dispelling the misconception that child education only begins after they're born...


A great impetus in striving for personal holiness is to understand the influence it has on the holiness of our children.


Children's character directly results from parents' spiritual status. Rebbe Nachman in Sefer HaMidot cites a number of ways as to how the success of the children depends on the holiness of the parents. Even the intent of a parent during the time that he or she was looking for a soul-mate affects the child and his future; all the more so, the manner in which parents conduct themselves during the time of conception.


So many factors influence a child before he or she is born, dispelling the misconception that child education only begins after they're born. For more details in this area, please refer to my book, "The Garden of Education."


Rebbe Nachman writes, "A man who marries a woman for her money has unscrupulous children; he also loses that money in a short time." (Sefer Hamidot, Banim, 34). We see that a man who marries for a less-than-honorable motive has less-than-honorable children. Woe to the children who are born out of such wedlock; they must suffer because of their parents’ dubious intent. Surely, teshuva can rectify, but we must pay close attention to the extent that parents' holy intent - or lack of it - even prior to getting married, affects the future of their children. Rebbe Nachman also shows how the opposite is true when he writes, "A person who marries a woman for the sake of Heaven, it is as if he gave birth to her." In other words, he's like Hashem's partner in creating her (ibid, 18).


Tosefot, elaborating on the Gemara in tractate Chagiga 17, explains why the Tannaic scholar Elisha ben Abuya - nicknamed Acher, or the "other one" to avoid saying his name - went off the path of Torah observance and became a heretic. He himself would quote Ecclesiastes 7:8 which says, "The result of stems from the beginning." Something is good when the result is good! But, if the beginning is not good, the end won't be either. He testified about himself and said that he strayed from the Torah path because his parents had ulterior motives of prestige for themselves by bringing him into the world. The story is as follows, as Elisha ben Abuya tells in his own narrative (ibid, 15a-b):


"So it happened with me. Abuya, my father, was one of Jerusalem’s notables. When he was arranging for my circumcision, he invited all the notables of Jerusalem to the brit, among them Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua.


"After they ate and drank, they began to sing, clap their hands and dance. Rabbi Eliezer said to Rabbi Yehoshua: ‘They are occupied with what interests them: shall we not occupy ourselves with what interests us?’


"They began to speak words of Torah, and then went on to the Prophets, and from the Prophets they went on to discuss the Writings. Fire came down from Heaven and surrounded them. At that point Abuya said to them: ‘My masters, have you come to set my house on fire?’


"They replied: ‘God forbid! We were merely sitting and stringing words of Torah, then ‘ Prophets, and then Writings. The words were as joyful as when they were given at Sinai. For when originally given at Sinai, they were given in the midst of fire, as it is said: “The mountain burned with fire unto the heart of heaven'” (Devarim 4:11).


“Elated, my father Abuya remarked, ‘My masters, since the power of Torah is so great, if this child remains alive for me, I will dedicate him to the Torah.’ But because the intent of my father's resolve was not for the sake of Heaven, my study of Torah did not endure."


As Elisha ben Abuya testified about himself, we see King Solomon's wisdom once again manifest itself in saying, "The result of something stems from the beginning." A less than noble intent at the beginning leads to an undesirable result.


A person's thoughts at the critical times of marriage, conception, and as we see in the above example - at the brit - have a profound effect on the future of the child. Parents' intent in bringing children into the world should be for the sake of Heaven. If they have ulterior motives and negative desires, the children will be affected and influenced accordingly. But, a good effect is so much more powerful than a negative effect: a father who brings a child into the world with proper intent, and thinks holy thoughts during the time of his son's brit as well as upon sending him to learn Torah, influences his son in a wonderful manner and prepares the child to receive Divine abundance. The deeds of parents are stepping stones for children. So, the best way to insure the holiness of our children is to strengthen our own personal holiness.

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