Committing time and resources to raising healthy, happy children is the greatest investment in the future that you can make.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion, in Israel, is “Pinchas” (Numbers 25:10–30:1). Although the name of our Torah portion refers to the primary hero of the reading, Pinchas, who was rewarded for killing two sinners and thereby putting an end to a plague that killed 24,000 Jews, let us discuss another figure mentioned in this week’s reading: Yocheved.
The portion this week includes yet another census (hence the book of “Numbers”), which represents the last census before the Jewish people enter the Land of Israel. The portion also reviews all the tribes, recounts their main families, and concludes with the total population. When discussing the tribe of Levi, the Torah goes out of its way to mention Yocheved, the mother of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, as it says: “The name of Amram’s wife was Yocheved, the daughter of Levi…she bore to Amram, Aharon and Moses, and their sister, Miriam.”
If Yocheved is getting “called out” for special attention, there must be something very special about her. Yocheved lived a very long life, over 200 years we’re told. She was probably the happiest Jewish mother to ever live: one of her children became the High Priest, one of them became the leader of the Jewish people and the greatest prophet of all time, and one was a prophetess and leader of “the sisterhood.” Not bad for a Jewish mother’s resume!
Why did Yocheved merit all these blessings?
Our sages teach us that Yocheved’s merit came from her efforts back in Egypt. When Pharaoh decreed that all male babies had to be thrown into the Nile, Yocheved defied the decree and worked to keep the babies alive. Since she helped save so many lives, she was rewarded with a long life. Since she saved babies who ended up being productive adults, she was rewarded with children who made a permanent impact on the Jewish people.
The common denominator between Yocheved’s courage, reward, and all around example is a her love for life and for children. Yocheved realized the importance of life and the importance of children. She recognized the value of every single person and knew that every single life is important.
We need to emulate Yocheved. We have to take her example to heart.
So many people today choose not to have children, preferring to focus on their careers. Many people needlessly, and in some cases, dangerously, delay having children. Others choose to have only one or two children. In some homes, the pet dog comes before children (both current children and future ones!). And the worst: many people say that children are a needless burden and waste of money. How sad!
We must heed Yocheved’s life, message and mission: family comes first! Every child is important and every child is precious. Make sure to do your part to raise happy children who follow in the ways of God. There is nothing that gives a person more pleasure and satisfaction than pictures of happy children filling one’s family albums. Make sure your children and family are priority!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.