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Chinuch: A Mother’s Education

Every morning when we wake up, we say the famous words “שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תטוש תורת אמך”. The question is: One would think that it is the father’s job to teach his child Torah, however, according to this posuk, we say “תורת אמך” – the Torah of your mother and “מוסר אביך” – the mussar of your father. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

The meforshim explain that as we know, “תלמוד תורה כנגד כולם” – Torah is above all else. Mussar, which is the study of ethics and proper conduct is the vehicle to facilitate one’s growth in Torah. Thus, this posuk is teaching us a very important lesson: A father’s job when it comes to his young children is to facilitate their abilities to learn Torah and give them the proper framework and mindset. But it is the mother who is doing the actual teaching because only a mother has the proper abilities to get through to a child and make him learn. Whether it is the mother’s personality or disposition, a child learns much better when it is taught from the mother than from the father. We find that many gedolim felt this way. Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky felt that although in most yeshivos, a Rebbe was the one who would teach the children how to read Hebrew – generally in Pre-1A – he would advise that a Morah should continue from Kindergarten on to Pre-1A to teach the children how to read, because a woman is better equipped to reach the minds and hearts of young children than the ways of a Rebbe, who might not be able to do so. This is what we say,

“תורת אמך” – The foundation of Torah, upon which all else is built, should come from the mother who has the best ability to achieve this purpose.

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Likewise, we find that a woman’s knowledge regarding the chinuch of her children is superior to her husband. When Yitzchok was little, growing up in the house of his father, Avrohom, his brother Yishmael was there too. Sarah saw and felt that Yishmael was having a bad effect on her son and no good could come from it. She immediately told Avrohom to expel Yishmael and his mother from the house. Avrohom was unsure and unwilling, until Hashem told him, “כל אשר תאמר אליך שרה שמע בקולה” – “All that Sarah is telling you, listen to her.” And he did, because Hashem knows and he let it be known to Avrohom that a mother has the best feel for her child, his friends, chinuch – education and well-being. Even more so than a tzaddik like Avrohom.

And a mother’s words are not to be taken lightly. After Yaakov took the Bechorah from Esav, and Esav wanted to kill his brother, Rivkah told her husband to send Yaakov away. She knew that if he stayed, there could be a huge fight and both her sons would be hurt. She said, “למה אשכל גם שניכם יום אחד” – “Why should I lose them both on the same day.” In the end Yaakov did leave and the brothers did not end up fighting. However, when a mother utters such emotional words, those words are not forgotten nor lost. Much later, when Yaakov died and his sons were burying him in מערת המכפלה, Esav came and refused to allow them to do so, claiming that it was his burial place and not Yaakov’s. A struggle ensued – as the famous medrash is well known – and Esav was killed right there, his head rolling into the מערת המכפלה to remain forever. Thus, the words that Rivkah spoke many years earlier were prophetic in its content, because a mother’s words about her children are heartfelt and never to be disregarded.


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