The Children Studying Torah

Rochel Sylvetsky

Watch young Jewish children rejoicing in the Torah – may their innocence and purity merit G-d’s granting His people a tranquil year.

The Talmudic Sage Resh Lakish said in the name of Rabbi Judah the Prince: “The world continues to exist only in the merit of the utterances of ‘tinokot shel bet raban’ – young children who learn Torah” (Tractate Sabbath 119:a) – because even chance remarks by children are free of sin.

The Talmud further asserts that “One does not cancel the Torah study of young children even to build the Holy Temple”. And in today’s Israel, they might add: or to wage war against enemies set to destroy the building of a Jewish presence in the Holy Land.

As Yom Kippur approaches and G-d holds the world’s uncertain future in the balance, a living example of this Talmudic saying is the sight of joyous five-year-olds celebrating receiving their first very own Chumash (Pentateuch) in the Religious Zionist Morasha Elementary School in Jerusalem.

Many Jewish children enjoy festive Chumash parties, but this one is different. Watching the children in the video ( sing songs of longing for closeness to Hashem (“My Beloved” of the Song of Songs) and of hope and courage (“Yesh Tikva”) , read the Ten Commandments from a real Torah – after all, Hebrew is their first language – recite G-d’s telling Abraham to go to Canaan from the new Chumash given to each by headmaster Rabbi Hillel Plesser, then circling the Beit Midrash happily on their fathers’ shoulders – one can almost forget that those same fathers and the children’s older brothers – most if not all of them graduates of Morasha – fought in Operation Protective Edge just a short while ago.

The rebbe leading the children, Rabbi Aviezer, had a son in the thick of the fighting, and another teacher’s son has not yet regained consciousness after sustaining a severe head wound. His young wife gave birth and then held the brit of their firstborn in Beer Sheva’s Soroka hospital so the soldier-father’s bed could be moved in to the ceremony – hoping he might react – while the entire class of children was bused there from Jerusalem on the previous night to say the Shema prayer at the baby’s bedside. The assistant principal’s newly-married son was killed in the last Gaza Operation.

Yet in this video you see them all, as well as parents and grandparents, dancing with true love of Torah, joyously celebrating the first steps of another generation loyal to the Torah of Israel, the Land of Israel and the People of Israel – and to serving G-d with happiness.

Among the proud grandparents caught by the camera are Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Dean of Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg, head of Kerem beYavne Hesder yeshiva and Rabbi Yoram Tzohar, head of the famed Kfar Pines Ulpana for Girls.

Founded in 1977 by students of Religious Zionist leader and Dean of Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, also called the “Father of Settlement in Judea and Samaria” and with his blessing, Morasha is located in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem, It has over 400 students, including four pre-school classes of 4-5 year olds and has opened a junior and upper high school.

Morasha is proudly and ideologically Religious Zionist in its unique educational programs, viewing the establishment of the state of Israel and its achievements as “Harbingers of Redemption”, following the path of Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Harav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook.

Using Rabbi Kook’s guidelines, there is emphasis on teaching love of every Jew – secular and religious – stressing personal responsibility, loyalty to Israel and willingness to sacrifice for it. Love of country is absorbed through Bible study and Israeli geography classes called “Land of Our Inheritance” that include a large number of field trips, while the history of the Jewish people is presented in the context of the longed-for return to Eretz Yisrael. Children are taught classic folk songs of Israel’s early chalutzim (pioneers), prepare projects and put on plays with Zionist in addition to Torah themes. Many hours delving into Torah and Talmud are the main emphasis of the curriculum, however.

Perhaps it is the pure sounds of these young children that give their parents and siblings the courage to sanctify G-d’s name in building and defending the Land of Israel. And they and Jewish children everywhere, says the Talmud, are the reason the world continues to exist.

And as Yom Kippur approaches, we pray that they remain safe and that the wounded have a speedy recovery . We ask that you pray for Yitzchak Yehuda ben Iris, the young father who has not yet held his son.

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