There’s no emunah like that of a young child learning in cheder
“Speak to Bnei Yisrael and say to them, when you come to the land which I am bringing you…” (Bamidbar 15:18)
hen I merited to bask in the rays of kedushah of the Chofetz Chaim, ztz”l, I witnessed something interesting. The Chofetz Chaim was learning this pasuk, but as he explained it to himself, he used the teitch used by young cheder boys, saying, “When we come — ven eyr kumt, to the land — tzu das land.” He continued in Yiddish, “You think that you are coming by yourself, but really I, Hashem, am bringing you there.”
He continued for a few more pesukim, explaining them in simple words, like a little boy sitting before his rebbi. (Rav Shimon Schwab, Maayan Bais Hashoavah)
When I was living in Yerushalayim and teaching in seminary, a friend asked me to substitute in her gan on my morning off. I agreed, glad to do such an easy favor. Within 20 minutes though, I knew for a fact that this was not my calling in life.
One girl didn’t stop crying for her mommy. Another little boy had a dirty diaper, and still another was zipping around the room on a tricycle, mowing over any obstacle in his way.
How did anyone do this all day for a living?
I asked his talmidim for an explanation. They said that from time to time, the Chofetz Chaim was accustomed to learning a pasuk of Chumash in the manner he’d learned as a small child with his rebbi, to strengthen his emunah. There’s no emunah like that of a young child learning in cheder.
Sure, when I had a bunch of little ones, our household resembled a mini-gan. Still, it was different. These were my kids and I loved them, so I loved spending time with them. But I also loved — and needed — my outside life full of adults.
The last few months though, have overturned that dynamic, for me and for so many others. I’ve spent more hours than I can count playing cars with Shloime on the floor, memorizing multiplication tables with Binyamin, and practicing reading with Yitzi as he “leins” on top of his lungs with what he calls Tatty -trop.
Forced into a position of ganenet and second-grade rebbi, I’m learning to manage on the job. But there’s still that niggling voice that says, “How does anyone do this all day for a living?”
Chazal tell us (Shabbos 119b) that the world exists in the merit of tinokos shel beis rabban, the small children, because their emunah is pure and strong without any doubts. As Dovid Hamelech wrote in Tehillim (8:3): “From the mouth of babes You have established strength.”
Finally, my boys’ school reopened, on a reduced schedule. The night before the “first day of school,” Yitzi lovingly packed his Chumash and an extra sharpened pencil. Shloime checked his tik, making sure his water bottle was still there.
The next morning, I bid them all an emotional farewell. But my sentiment was mixed with a small sense of relief that someone else would be responsible for matchbox car races and loud repetitions of pesukim.
Yitzi flew into the door the moment school was over. “I saw my rebbi! He remembers me! He didn’t see me for three months, but he said I grew! My rebbi didn’t grow, but his beard did! And he remembered me!”
“What about your friends?” I was surprised at this omission. After all, he hadn’t seen his classmates either for all this time.
“My rebbi also remembered them! He remembered everyone’s name! And he pinched my cheek.” Yitzi’s eyes glowed as he recounted all this info. “I like learning with my rebbi! He knows real Tatty-trop!”
Back to being just a mommy — no more ganenet or rebbi roles. And I was eternally grateful for the universe slowly righting itself.
If nothing else, these months have taught me that there are some people meant to be rebbis and morahs — those magical people who devote their days to filling our little ones’ needs.
I’ve watched these teachers and rebbeim step into positions that were never in their job description, but were graciously accepted. They knew how essential they are to these small souls, and they’ve risen to the challenge far and above anyone’s expectations.
So to all those heroes, hats off to you. I still don’t know how you do it. But please continue.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 697)
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