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Why Did G-d Create Childhood?

Friday, 20 March, 2015 - 11:25 am

1. On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, "The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents."

2. A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother. "I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!"

Why did G-d create childhood? Why did G-d create us in a way that we remain children for so many years? Why not create us like the animals so that after a few months, we become mature and independent? Is not all of childhood one big waste of time, a never-ending burden for the parents, financially, mentally and emotionally?

Vayikra, the Torah portion this week, states numerous times that sacrifices atone for most of man's sins.

But how? How can an animal offering atone for an intentional or inadvertent transgression?

The answer is because the offerings  represent the essential and intrinsic relationship between a Jew and G-d which is not dependent on his or her observance of Torah. True, Torah actualizes the relationship and brings it to the fore; but the connection is always at the core. It is like a parent and child: Even when the child breaks all the rules, there is a love and connection that cannot be destroyed.

This is also expressed in the animals used as Divine sacrifices. Only four animals were permitted to be used: the bull, the cow, the sheep, and the goat. Why these four? The Midrash explains, “The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: An ox is pursued by a lion, a goat by a leopard, a sheep by a wolf. Do not offer before Me the pursuers, but rather the pursued.”

These animals are by nature completely innocent and harmless. When being offered to G-d they evoke the innocence at the core of the human being, the goodness and holiness embedded in the person, independent of his or her immoral actions. The sacrifices embody the pure essence of the Jew, which is always one with G-d.

The animals were not punished to become sacrifices. According to the Kabbalah, the animals brought as offerings were exhilarated and happy for the opportunity to become Divine. The experience of causing and seeing the animal go up in a Divine flame was incredibly inspiring to the person bringing the offering, teaching him/her that even while he saw himself as an animal he was truly Divine and pure.

This pristine, innocent, holy and pure relationship with G-d is true about every Jew, but it is embodied most by our children. For the adult, the primary relationship with G-d is “contractual:” we are obligated to do mitzvot. Children, on the other hand, are not yet obligated to perform any mitzvot. How then is their Jewishness—their relationship with G-d—expressed? In their very existence. The very presence of Jewish children bespeaks holiness and G-dliness.

According to the Torah, a child is incapable of doing a sin. According to the Midrash, “they know not the taste of sin.” A child can be wild, undisciplined, challenging, and can of course do something wrong, but being a child, he or she can never be fully blamed. There is no evil intent. The absolute purity of his or her soul always shines on their faces, it is always manifested in their existences.

That is why on Passover we cannot celebrate our Exodus without the questions of our children. As adults we can only experience true freedom through our children.

A Story: Every morning Moshe would stand outdoors for 30 minutes watching the school buses in Boro Park, Brooklyn, pick up the children and bring them to school. Boro Park is home to a few hundred thousand Jews of many denominations. There are hundreds of Jewish schools in the neighborhood and no shortage of school buses picking up different children. Moshe stood gazing at these buses every morning.

The onlookers thought he was an old, lonely, bored man, perhaps half senile, who had nothing better to do but stand outside and watch the traffic. This was his recreation. But one day someone approached him and asked him why he did this each morning.

He responded, "I was in Auschwitz. I lost all my children there. I watched thousands of transports of Jewish children arriving there with their mothers. Within the hour, their young, fragile and adorable bodies were shoved into ovens. I watched it all… I saw it all… and I could say nothing. I could do nothing, besides swear that one day I would take revenge.

"Now I take my revenge, every single morning…. As I stand outside and watch hundreds of children with yarmulkes on their heads, peyot rolling down their cheeks, running onto the buses which take them to yeshiva—I get my revenge. Just hearing the children laughing and screaming, and watching their glowing faces as their mothers kiss them goodbye, is for me the greatest victory of good over evil, of purity over despicable profanity."

This Shabbat is Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Shabbat Hachodesh. We will take out three Torahs!

May G-d bless all the children to go from strength to strength spiritually and physically.



Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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