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Shabbat Parashat Chukat 5776

Ein Ayah: Critical to Start the Emotional Basis Correctly

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 2:214)

Gemara: Rabbi said: Due to sins of not keeping oaths, one’s children die when they are minors, as the pasuk says: “Do not allow your mouth to cause evil to your flesh … why should Hashem be angry at you over your voice [Rashi- the oath you uttered] and destroy the work of your hands [i.e., your children]? (Kohelet 5:5).


Ein Ayah: The foundation of good chinuch (education) is to make secure the natural emotional tendency toward goodness, justice, sanctity, and honesty. In that way, when the child grows up, he will find the path of life prepared before him, and he will only need to learn life lessons and sharpen his intellect to elevate himself.

Therefore, the cardinal lacking of chinuch is when the teacher does not recognize the great value of good emotions, but rather just looks for things’ cold intellectual side. In that way, he lacks the coal of holy fire within the heart that enables one to feel life and the pleasantness of Hashem’s light in good characteristics and all the sanctity of the Torah and pure service of Hashem. Such an approach destroys the spirit, for man is not simply an intellectual being, so that he could be completed by cold, dry intellectuality. Rather, he is a combination of intellectual and emotional powers which have to be positively integrated. No intellectual perception will properly complete the spirit, without many proper actions that are capable of developing the emotional side.

With the ethical expansion of a great spirit and its emotions, there is a need for many actions to support the many different emotions. A great and holy nation, like Hashem’s nation, has a great national spirit which appears within the spirit of every individual Jew, and this requires the maintaining of the varied emotions. Therefore, there need to be mitzva actions, each of which is able to strengthen people’s character and make their broad ethical element correspond to the broadness of their spirit. “Hashem wanted to bring merit to Israel, and therefore He gave them a lot of Torah and mitzvot” (Makkot 23b).

Clearly, refining emotion is a constant work in action that is impactful for adults. However, it is inestimably more important for the education of minors. The entire early development of a person depends solely on the level of success at rooting natural emotions. These merge with the essential spirit and are the basis for all his emotional success in life.

One of the main ways to show respect for the emotions and realize that it is a present of Hashem for one who leads his life properly is to be scrupulous in fulfilling one’s neder obligations. A neder results from a decision one makes in an elevated spiritual state. A parent who is sensitive to the importance of that state is more likely to be able to educate his children well, so that they will grow up to be righteous people who act with kindness and are a credit to society and, especially, Israel. This makes it worthwhile for them to live.

In contrast, when one does not respect that which he accepted upon himself while emotionally elevated, he is not able to properly educate his poor children toward a positive life. While his sons and daughters were supposed to be “the works of his hands,” this requires someone to prepare them for emotional success with sanctity. When this preparation is lacking during the stage of childhood, there is the possibility that they will grow to be destructive members of society. Then Divine Providence may decide that it is proper to have these children die during childhood in one of the many paths through which tragedy can come due to human shortcomings. [Obviously, this is just one course that can bring about such tragedy to young children. One cannot know from a child’s death if his parents were lacking regarding oaths or any other specific sin.]

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