Moshe was told to count the Jewish nation. “Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel according to their families… From twenty years of age and up…everyone who goes out to the legion…” (Bamidbar 1:2-3).
This count included every tribe except that of Levi. They were reserved for a separate count. And their count was not of men aged twenty and up. Theirs began with a much younger crew.
“Count the sons of Levi … every male from one month of age and up shall you count them” (Bamidbar 3:14-15).
Our Sages ask why was there a difference when it came to the tribe of Levi?
Why did the infants, one month and above, get counted? Surely the count should have started at a later age like the rest of the tribes?
When Rabbi Benjamin Kamenetzky founded the Yeshiva of South Shoreback in the late 1950s, he invited his illustrious father Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky zts’l, to visit the school. After an impressive tour, in which he interviewed teachers and tested the students of the fledgling institution, Rabbi Benjamin Kamenetzky showed his father the pre-school program, which imbued the youngest children with a love for Judaism.
On the portal of the classroom, there was a colourful mezuzah. Normally a mezuzah is supposed to be placed at the bottom of the top third of the doorpost. This one was not. It was placed lower – at the bottom third of the doorpost. The teachers explained to both Rabbis the reasoning for the downward adjustment. “This way, the children will be able to reach the mezuzah, and kiss it.” Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky zts’l smiled. “We must not lower the mezuzah, for the children to kiss it. Instead, we must raise the child, to reach the mezuzah at its proper level. What we must do is put a step stool in order for the children to reach higher — to the proper level of the mezuzah! Raise the child at an early age to reach the height of the mitzvah, instead of lowering the mitzvah to the child!”
The difference between the counting of the Levites and the rest of the nation is very clear. The nation was, as a whole, counted “according to their legions,” – their task was to defend the people. The Levites were counted for their job of “guardians of the charge of the sanctity.” They were stationed to watch over the Holy Temple.
Though legions are counted at a fighting age, our children, guardians of the sanctity of our nation, must be counted as early as possible.
The Torah teaches us that we must teach our children from an early age, we must invest in their education and ensure the continuity of our heritage.
It is important to invest in our youth – for they are the future.
There is another lesson to be learnt from our children. One might think that when taking care of children we are only investing in the ‘future’.
In actual fact we could be investing in the present too!
Children are amazing, we enjoy their young spirit and invest a great deal ensuring that they have the best education and turn out successful. Yet there is a side benefit to children apart from the wonderful Nachat they provide.
Rav Wolbe zts’l writes (Sefer Alei Shor): “There is no greater factor in improving one’s character than having children.”
Children can help influence our own path in life.
A person might be able to live with their own poor character, but to see his own children with improper character traits is a different matter. He views it more as a disadvantage, and this could in time force him to clean up his own act and improve himself.
There’s an interesting Mechilta (Parshat Yitro) that states: “The 10 Commandments were given, 5 on one tablet and 5 on the other tablet”. The Mechilta implies that the Ten Commandments are not only read downwards as in a list, but can also be read across the two tablets. (1st together with 6th commandment, 2nd together with 7th commandment)
The Mechilta continues and shows a connection between the parallel commandments on the two tablets.
For instance, the Mechilta says the first command is “I am the L-rd your G-d” and the parallel sixth command is “You shall not kill”. This implies, that one who commits murder is not only sinning against his fellow man, but he is — as it were — diminishing the Divine image, for man was created in the Divine image.
All of the examples of the Midrash seem to make sense…until the last one.
It is written “Honour Your Father and Mother” and the parallel commandment is “You Shall Not Covet”. The Midrash continues:”Any person who is jealous will ultimately give birth to a child who will curse his own father and who will give respect to someone who is not his own father”.
What is the connection that the Midrash is trying to tell us?
When we are jealous of our friends — whether it be their wealth or their position in life — what message are we telling our children?
The message we are getting across is that “the other one has better”. If we are constantly jealous of our neighbour’s house, car, honour, etc. what we are teaching our children is that what we have never suffices.
The Midrash teaches us, that in addition to this attitude which is inherently wrong, we also have a corrosive effect on our children. A child will learn not to be happy with what he has. And what he really has is parents. This could lead him to be unsatisfied with his own parents, eventually searching for someone else to be his father/mother figure.
Our youth are precious and they constantly take in lessons from their surroundings. They affect our present as well as our future.
May Hashem Bless us and ensure that we bring them up with the right values from birth.