At Sinai, all men, women and children had to be present. All received the same truth, all at once.
In a simple commentary written for a five year old, great secrets of the Torah can be found. But only once you understand the simple commentary as a five year old does.
From the wisdom of the Rebbe
Menachem M. Schneerson
as compiled by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman in his book
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth
Perhaps in the Rebbe’s words, we find the keys to unlock this 2,000 year old mystery:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. –Matthew 18:1-5
We sometimes make the mistake of imposing our assumptions when we read this teaching from Jesus. The first thing we imagine when we think of a small child is that, compared to an adult, he or she doesn’t know very much about the world. Children have an extremely simple understanding of how things work. They can see the moon in the sky, but not know what it is. They can play with their favorite stuffed toy and believe it is as alive as they are. They are easily convinced of the most outrageous suggestions and accept them as utter truth. How else could we get a child to believe that there is a fat guy who rides in a sled pulled by flying reindeer, and who delivers presents to every child on Earth in a single night?
Translating all of that back into the words of Christ, we imagine he means that we don’t need to know very much about the Bible, the history of the church, the wisdom of the great Sages, or most anything else in order to be saved and have a right relationship with God. It means that studying the Bible is a waste of time, because it doesn’t change the status of being saved. It means that Bible commentaries, the Talmud, and everyone who reads and tries to comprehend them, are just making your relationship with God too complicated. After all, once you are saved in Christ, the deal is sealed and nothing else matters at all. If you’re a Christian it’s only about you and Jesus.
That tends to illustrate one of the qualities of small children; the tendency toward being self-absorbed and the difficulty in seeing a world outside of our own small sphere. Being saved and becoming a disciple of the Master is the first step in our journey, not the last.
So what does Jesus mean? What does the Rebbe mean? How are great secrets possessed by little, uncomprehending children that elude perhaps some of the greatest scholars who have ever lived? Is Bible study; Torah study a waste of time? Here’s Rabbi Freeman’s response:
The Rebbe often repeated that through the study of Torah you could conquer the world. And from the way the Rebbe discussed Torah you could see he was doing just that: Every thought, every teaching was a new understanding of the entire universe. A simple story..became in his hands an insight to the workings of time and space.
Rabbi Freeman, who describes the Rebbe as one of the foremost Torah scholars of his age, also tells this story about him:
The child he (the Rebbe) saw as a lucid, glistening crystal vessel in which to find G-d. More than once the Rebbe pointed out how his own thoughts strove to attain the simplicity of those of a child. In that simplicity, he taught, can be found the simplicity of the Infinite.
The Rebbe formed a club for Jewish children called “Tzivos Hashem”. He told the children that with verses of Torah and good deeds they would fight the forces of darkness in the world and bring Moshiach.
The Children began to stand close to the Rebbe at public gatherings. Some went under the table near his feet. Legend has it that occasionally a small band would rise up from under the table to snatch a piece of the Rebbe’s cake.
For me, this really clarifies why Bible study and immersion in the Torah are vital to achieving and retaining the perspective of a small child who is contemplating God.
Remember what I said about how adults can cause a child to have an unswerving belief in the existence of Santa Claus? It’s not the child’s fault that he or she believes in a fantasy, it’s the adults who taught them. Children are open to those they trust and they believe their parents (in most cases) mean them nothing but good. Sure, they get mad at us temporarily when we discipline them for some misdeed, but they know with complete trust that we are the source of all good in their lives. This is how we saw the world when we were five.
We fail them when we don’t tell them the truth and prove unworthy of their trust.
But now let’s bump that concept up the ladder a bit. We, as adults, can question whether or not something is the truth. We no longer believe in Santa Claus and we can (most of the time) recognize the difference between fantasy and reality. We have a Father in Heaven who is the source of all good in our lives. He wants nothing but the best for us and He does not tell us tales of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, which we later find out are quaint lies. God tells us the truth. In essence, we are like children standing close to the Rebbe and sitting at his feet under the table. Now here’s where the “child” part comes in.
If we choose to believe and to trust God as completely as small children trust their parents, whatever God tells us, we will believe. Whatever He wants us to do, we will do, without questioning why. When we “snatch a piece of cake” (so to speak) from His table, He won’t mind, because He knows we’re going to do it and He put the cake there to share with us. If we want to know how to accept God in the manner He desires to be accepted, trusted, and loved, all we have to do is to look at the relationship between little children and their parents.
For me, one of the lessons I must learn about the little children is what the Rebbe says here:
With Torah, you don’t get all the answers all at once.
Why does the moon only come out at night? Why is the sky blue? How can a fish breathe underwater? How old is God? Have you ever tried to answer these questions? It’s hard to do. Even if you know why the sky is blue or how fish breathe underwater, you can’t always communicate the answer in a way a child will understand. It’s that way for me. I want to know so much. It seems as if there’s so little time. And yet I wait. You don’t get all the answers all at once. Sometimes you have to get older first before you can understand.
In the meantime, you trust and believe, because that’s what small children do best.
Now to finish the story about the children snatching the Rebbe’s cake:
Finally, one of the adults became fed up with this lack of decorum and attempted to escort some children away. The Rebbe turned to him and exclaimed, “You are only a civilian and they are soldiers – and you want to remove them?
As the Rebbe also said, “Wealth is not a mansion filled with silver and gold. Wealth is children and grandchildren growing up on the right path.”
May we all “grow up” on the right path, too.