Emunah Must Be Implanted In The Hearts Of Children From Their Youth
Shtayt in Chazal: “Tzaddik B’emunaso Yichyeh!”
As precious as the benefit of emunah is, so is the difficulty in attaining it; no person will merit attaining emunah unless he constantly works on it. Therefore, a person must make it a priority to awaken and instill emunah into the hearts of his sons and daughters already from the time of their childhood. Consequently, the words of Shlomo Hamelech (mishlei 22:6): “Train a child according to his way so that when he grows older he will not deviate from it,” will be fulfilled in them.
The following is an example of such chinuch. During the two years that Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, zt”l, spent in Siberia, he was forced to labor with backbreaking work from morning until night. He lived like a non-Jew, Rachmana litzlan, for he was unable to fulfill any of the mitzvos of the Torah. When he awoke in the morning and said Modeh ani lefanecha... shehechezarta bi – “I give thanks to You... for You have returned my soul within me with mercy,” he thought to himself and said, “Master of the Universe, why am I living such a life that is void of Torah and good deeds? Woe is me and woe to my soul!”
He remained contemplating this with a broken heart until he thought about the concluding words, rabbah Emunasecha – “Great is Your emunah,” at which time his eyes lit up and he became excited. He said, “The mitzvah of emunah is so great, and it is something that I can fulfill in the most complete way even in this bitter exile! For this alone it is worthwhile for me to live! I can thank and praise Hashem Yisbarach that He returned my neshamah to me so that I could fulfill the mitzvah of emunah!”
If we contemplate this episode we will notice something remarkable. How is it that an illustrious and great giant such as Rav Yechezkel Abramsky, zt”l, who found himself in the midst of darkness and the shadow of death, did not find comfort and strength from all that he knew and had learned in the preceding years? Only the Modeh Ani that his parents had taught him in his youth gave him comfort and strength?
The answer undoubtedly is that because his parents had with affection, love, awe and unending emunah, instilled within him these words to such a penetrating degree, therefore now, in this terrible time of tremendous darkness and concealment, he had the ability to strengthen and comfort his spirit. He was able to reach out and grasp onto the tradition, the strong rope of emunah, so that his soul would not be lost from the way of Hashem.
It was thus fulfilled in him the dictum of Shlomo Hamelech, “Train a child according to his way so that when he grows old he will not deviate from it.” The emunah he was trained with when he was young – the Modeh Ani that was implanted in his heart during his youth – was what stood by him and gave him the ability when he was older to continue on under the forbidding circumstances that existed in Siberia. It was from those droplets of love, fear, and emunah that his father and mother had implanted into the hearts of their young children. Unquestionably, this only came from parents who transmitted the Moden Ani to their children with all of their heart and soul, ignited with tremendous emunah and deveikus. Accordingly, the impression of that chinuch will never be erased and is forever embedded in their children’s being.
It is possible to explain that this is the intent of rabbah Emunasecha, namely, that emunah should be something very important and so great in one’s eyes that one is willing to be moser nefesh. In light of this, when parents are instilling emunah in their children, they themselves must also make genuine efforts and a great fuss regarding it, so that their children will recognize that the emunah of their parents is to the extent of mesims nefesh. How painful it is that nowadays people sing with their children Modeh Ani and other posukirn of emunah without any feelings whatsoever. Their hearts must be warmed up about emunah in order to transmit this truth to the hearts of their children with life and emotion. Without this warmth, they will not have the true influence that can remain with their children for life. Rather, in the course of time, when their children get older they will not have what to hold on to. G-d forbid. This is because their emunah is not internalized and embedded deeply within their hearts: it is merely superficial lip service.
HaGaon HaRav Gamliel Rabinowitz shlit’a Rosh Yeshivah Sha’ar HaShamayim