Vayelech 5776

Friday, September 18, 2015

The parsha discusses the mitzvah of "hakhel." During Succos of the year after Shemittah, Bnei Yisroel is required to gather at the Mikdash for a public reading of Sefer Devarim. This mitzvah includes bringing small children and babies. Why? They lack the capacity to understand and comprehend mitzvos. What is the purpose of bringing them? Rashi quotes the Gemara from Chagigah (3a) saying that it is in order to give s'char (reward) to those who brought them. But what does that really mean? Why does the Gemara seemingly go out of its way to mention an extra amount of s'char for the parents?
My rebbe, R' Yehuda Shmulewitz, explains that the Gemara is teaching the importance of one's environment. A person's surroundings have such an effect on a person, even from an early age. Bringing children to the Mikdash to hear the Torah will expose them to a healthy and wonderful environment, one that they will hopefully continue to live in as they grow. They will want to continue living in a Torah-filled life.
The Gemara in Chagigah also expresses R' Yehoshua's reaction to hearing such a statement. He calls the vort a "precious gem." Why did he find it so moving? When R' Yehoshua was a baby, his mother would bring him to the beis midrash to be among talmidei chachamim. He eventually became one of the main disciples of R' Yochanan ben Zakkai. R' Yehoshua was pleased when he heard how much s'char his mother got from putting him in the right environment.


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