By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier
A melava malka benefiting Machon Chana—the school for women baalei teshuva established in memory of the Rebbe’s mother, Rebbetzin Chana—was held on motzaei Shabbos Parshas Beshalach 5741 (1981).
Typically, the Rebbe left public service announcements to the gabbaim, but that Shabbos the Rebbe personally announced the melava malka, and invited everyone to participate.
Talking about the unique role Jewish women play in educating their children, the Rebbe explained:
“Nutritious food is the best preventative medicine. When a child becomes ill, chas v’shalom, it’s usually the father who runs to the doctor. But it’s the mother who maintains the child’s good health the rest of the time, preventing illness to begin with.
“The same is true when it comes to spiritual health. Mothers fortify their children with spiritual nutrition, and like physical wellbeing, this begins as soon as the child is born. The child should see that not only are the doctors and nurses running around with clean, sterile, clothes and instruments, but also how careful his mother is to guard his spiritual health. Even the tunes she hums to the baby are about how Torah is the best commodity.”
The Rebbe proceeded to announce the melava malka, and added:
“People will surely think I have a personal bias. After all, this institution carries the name of my mother, the person who dedicated herself to my upbringing; any qualities I have are thanks to her. So let it be, I am biased, and for good reason.”
This Shabbos marks the yahrtzeit of the Rebbetzin Chana, and in this week’s parsha, Vayelech, we read about the mitzvah for men, women, and children to come to Hakhel in the Beis Hamikdash. Men and women would come to hear the words of Torah, but what would the children gain? Surely they were too young to really understand. But they too, gained from the experience, ingesting yiras shomayim from their surroundings.
We spend so much time taking care of our children’s physical needs, perhaps we can take inspiration from this Shabbos to invest more into their spiritual development. It’s not only about the lessons we teach; it begins with the nuanced environment in which we do it. If we provide a warm, happy, spiritually healthy environment for our children, we should applaud ourselves for building their spiritual fortitude. And if we need to improve, let’s make a resolution to start now.
Yiddishkeit has so much beauty and joy to offer, especially at this time of year. Let’s take advantage of it.
Specifically mothers can make that difference. How rewarding, if our children too can say, “any qualities I have are thanks to her”?
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