A Rebbe’s education

Friday, 15 March, 2019 - 9:08 am

 How does one educate children the right way? This is perhaps the most frequently asked question in the world. Every parent is concerned with it, examining the various systems, and I hope also consulting with professionals. In 1966, the Rebbe told a story that he heard from his father-in-law about the Ba’al Hatanya, the Admor Hazaken – the first Lubavitcher Rebbe – and his grandson, who later became the third Rebbe, the author of the Tzemach Tzedek. The story allows us a peek into the education he gave his grandson, who had been orphaned from his mother, and his grandfather, the Ba’al Hatanya, was responsible for his upbringing.

The Admor Hazaken enrolled his grandson in the Cheder, and told the teacher to learn with his grandson the first parasha in the book of Vayikra, the parasha we will read tomorrow morning in shul. After learning it, the child asked his grandfather: “Why is the aleph in the word ‘Vayikra’ small?”

Upon hearing the question, the Admor Hazaken sank into deveikus for a while and then said: “Adam Harishon was created by Hashem, and Hashem says about him (in a midrash) that his wisdom was greater than that of the heavenly angels. Adam Harishon knew how great he was but he was full of this awareness, and that led him to stumble on the matter of the Tree of Knowledge. Moshe Rabbeinu also knew how great he was, but not only was Moshe not full of this knowledge, but this knowledge actually led him to great humility. He thought, if another Jew who is not the son of Amram and not even the seventh generation from Avraham Avinu would have received a great soul like Moshe’s and if he also had the zechut Avot as Moshe had, that Jew would have been in a better spiritual state than Moshe Rabbeinu. About this is says in the Torah: ‘And the man Moshe was more humble than any man on earth.’ Because, upon meeting any other person, Moshe would think to himself: If he would have gotten the gifts that I received, the soul and the special zechut Avot, he would certain have been better than me.”

At the point the Admor Hazaken returned to his grandson’s question and said: “There are three types of letters that Hashem gave at Sinai large letters – about Adam Harishon, there is a large Aleph in Divrei Hayamim. Medium letters – most of the letters of the Torah are of medium size. Small – like the aleph that’s written at the end of the word Vayikra, indicating Moshe Rabbeinu. The Torah was written in medium-sized letters because a person should be medium, as the Rambam wrote in Hilchot De’ot, 4: The straight path is the medium path of every trait. Therefore, the early sages commanded that a person should assess his traits all the time and estimate them, and aim towards the middle path. The Torah is the means to reach this.

There is a large aleph in reference to Adam Harishon, because he was full of recognition of his status, and that, as mentioned, was the cause of his downfall.

Moshe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, received a small aleph, because through his inner work he brought himself to true humility, even though he was really very great.”

When the Rebbe brought this story in 1966, he said, among other things, that the reason the Admor Hazaken described the differences between those two great people, Moshe and Adam Harishon, at such great length, was that he knew that he was educating a child who was going to be a tzaddik and a great Jew, as the Tzemach Tzedek indeed became. So the educating grandfather was making it clear to his grandson: You have received many gifts – a very holy neshama as well as an especially illustrious lineage. But remember: if you don’t know how to lead your life right, if you will be full of your own greatness, you will be in danger of falling like Adam Harishon. In order to succeed, be like Moshe Rabbeinu. When you meet a Jew, think of the fact that if he had been the grandson of the Admor Hazaken, raised in his home and under his tutelage, perhaps he would have been better than you.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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