The Mitzvah Of Chinuch Ha’banim

Adapted From:

The mitzvah of Chinuch Ha’banim is one of the foundations of Judaism. The Torah Hakedoshah states that Avraham Avinu (a”h) was endeared to Hashem because “He will command his children and household to keep the ways of Hashem, doing charity and justice” (Breishit 18:17-19).

Rav Elya Lopian (a”h) comments that even though Avraham had already passed ten tests and observed the entire Torah, including the Rabbinic ordinances, nevertheless, the Torah attributes his endearment due to Avraham transmitting the Torah tradition to his children.

The first mitzvah of the Torah is “Peru u’revu” (Bereishit 1:28). This is generally translated as “be fruitful and multiply” and simply means that we are commanded to have many children. The Shelah Hakadosh in his sefer, Shaar Ha’otiyot, writes that the purpose of the mitzvah is to raise children in Torah and mitzvot. Chachamim term this commandment a “mitzvah rabba” – a great mitzvah, because the more Jews there are in the world, the more mitzvot can be fulfilled. This is also indicated by the halachah in the Shulchan Aruch that permits the selling of a Sefer Torah in order to provide financial means for a couple to get married.

Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch (a”h) explains how this concept is actually implied in the Torah’s words. He writes that the word, “Peru” simply means to have children. The word, “peru,” is similar to the word, “peri,” which means a fruit. However, the word, “revu” implies something greater. The children are supposed to be replicas not only of the physical and bodily traits of their parents, but also of their spiritual, intellectual and moral selves. Accordingly, parents have to plant the spiritual and moral best of themselves in their children and carefully nurture their development. They must form, educate and cultivate them. The word, “Revu” demands the founding of the home and the family, which is the nursery for human education.

Therefore, a child is born into a family not only for his material needs, such as love, food, clothing and shelter, but also to guide and mold his personality. The obligation of parents is to pour themselves into their children by raising, molding and creating a Jewish family.

This responsibility is clearly stated by the Chafetz Chaim (a”h) who equates the parents’ child raising obligation to the mitzvot of studying Torah, reciting the Keriyat Shema and davening Shemoneh Esrei. In his sefer, Chomat Ha’dat the Chafetz Chaim writes the following: “Just like it is an obligation to learn Torah and recite the Keriyat Shema and Shemoneh Esrei, and to fulfill all the mitzvot, it is an even greater mitzvah for each parent to designate time to supervise the chinuch of their children in order to ensure that they follow in the ways of our forefathers.”

Due to our very hectic lives, busy schedules, personal involvements and pressures of earning a livelihood, parents sometimes forget that they have to be educate and raise their children! When Hashem gives us the wonderful gift of a child, it comes with a tremendous responsibility of raising him to lead a life of Torah, mitzvot and midot tovot.