From Insights and Inspirations
Published by the Ra’anana Community Kollel
Ra’anana Community Kollel
Praying on Behalf of Our Children
Rabbi Aharon Liberman
This Shabbat, we bless the month of Sivan that begins this week. The eve of Rosh Chodesh Sivan is on Tuesday and the Shlah writes that this is an especially opportune time to pray for our children to be righteous. This is because Shavuot, celebrating the giving of the Torah, occurs during Sivan. Upon accepting the Torah and binding ourselves eternally to Hashem, we became His children.
Where does the concept of davening for the success of our children come from? Rav Wolbe Zt”l writes that parents are obligated to pray for assistance in raising children right from day one, and even before that. He explains that this is derived from a ruling concerning the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. A person found guilty of accidental murder was exiled to the city of refuge where he remained until the death of the Kohen Gadol; therefore one expects that the citizens of the cities of refuge eagerly awaited the death of the Kohen Gadol. What did the Kohen Gadol do to deserve this? The Gemorah answers that the Kohen Gadol’s connection to the accidental murder is that he failed to pray that such unfortunate events not occur. Rav Wolbe notes that the Torah does not actually mention the Kohen Gadol’s obligation to pray on behalf of the people. It is self-understood and requires no mention. Anyone responsible for others has an obligation to pray on behalf of his charges, whether it is a rav for his community, a teacher for his students, or parents for their children. Prayer, Rav Wolbe says, is THE most essential aspect of child rearing. He writes that “if I have reached some level in Torah, it is in the merit of my mother’s tefillos.” (An incredible statement, especially to those aware of what “some level of Torah” was reached by this recently niftar gadol!) “I took note that she would daven for me- up to ten times a day!”
So we see that davening for our children is a continuous requirement. Nevertheless, are there any other times besides Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan that are particularly auspicious? Rabbi Menachem Nissel quotes the Rabenu Yona who emphasizes three special moments: at the conclusion of the Amida immediately preceding “yehyu liratzon”, when donating to charity; and when lighting Shabbat candles. The Mishneh Brurah points to three places in our daily prayers where it is beneficial to pray with special kavanah, concentration, for our children. They are during the morning blessing of the Torah when we say “venehyeh anachnu vetzeatzeanu,” during the blessing of “Ahava Rabbah,” and during the “Uva letzion” prayer when we say “lo nigah larik, velo neled labehala.”
We know that davening for our children is important, but how can we motivate ourselves to do so with real intensity? Rabbi Lawerence Keleman in his book To Kindle a Soul, states that parents are like farmers. First we plant ideas and values in our children through personal example and gentle instruction. Then we must stand by helplessly, hoping that as they grow, everything we planted will grow properly. There is no alternative but to rely on Hashem to bring our efforts to fruition. People are often uncomfortable praying for help when there is no immediate need. When there is an emergency, however, who does not pray for his children? Our challenge as parents is to be constantly sensitive to the dangers which exist in our world and how they threaten our children. The world around us today is replete with immorality, crime, drug use, etc. all of which can have a harmful influence on our children. As a rabbi who has worked extensively with at-risk youth, I have seen how often it happens, even to children from good families. The success of our children is ultimately out of our hands; it is in Hashem’s hands. With each day, we must be aware of the urgency of the situation, and pray sincerely for Hashem’s help.
The Talmud in Berachot teaches that even Hashem Himself prays. The text of His tefillah is “May it be My will that My mercy will overwhelm My anger… and that I will treat them above and beyond the law.” Does Hashem really have to pray to Himself on His children’s behalf?! The deep meaning of this Gemorah is that Hashem loves us tremendously, just as we love our children. And the clearest way to portray that love is to show that Hashem prays for us.