Friday, 9 May 2008

Iyar 4 - Growing Peyos for Three Years

HaYom Yom for today:

"It is the custom of the Jewish people not to remove or cut the hair of a young child until the completion of three years.

"Cutting of the Hairs - Opsherenish - of a child is a great thing amongst the customs of the Jewish people. And its essence is in the education of the leaving behind of the corners of the head. And from the day of the cutting of the Peyos (the corners of the head - the sidelocks) the custom is to accustom the young child in the matters of wearing a Tallis Kotton (a four corned garment fitted with tassles on each of the corners as prescribed by Jewish law,) and in the saying of the morning blessings and in the saying of the after-blessing over bread, and in the recital of the reading of the Shema when going to bed at night."

Education begins when a child is born - and even before that (as one can see in the case of Samson whose mother was not even allowed to drink wine while pregnant so as not to bring her son to harm - due to his status of being a Nazir (one not allowed to drink wine.)

The age of 3 is said to already begin the age of "formal" education, where a child becomes highly sensitized to external behavior and manner. These commandments are all sure to make an impact on the child and affect him for his entire life.

We begin this process of education with a number of personal Torah commandments that the child will be affected by - in a physical manner.

The first concerns the cutting of the child's hair. Just like the fruit of a tree less than three years of age may not be eaten, so too the sanctity of a child resembles this holiness for "Man is a tree of the field." Just as there are 3 totally impure husks that are to be found in this world but a fourth which has the properties of both good and bad, so too is this child connected with these 3 impure forces for his first three years of life - but "free" in his fourth year. As the Kabbalistic writings speak of so often "G-d created everything with it's opposite." Therefore just as the child is filled with holiness, so too are there forces of unholiness wishing to suckle from the holy.

The Torah commands a man not to cut off the hairs on the side of the face, for there is a holiness to these too. We begin educating the child with these ideas. The hair may only be touched from the age of three - and even then, we cut only a part of it off to teach the child the beginnings of Mitzvah observance. The child will see himself in a mirror and be aware that already he is physically involved in the active fulfillment of Mitzvos. This will impact the child for life!

In addition to this special Mitzvah, the child is taught the importance of wearing a small Tallis - Tzitzit - another important Mitzvah for the child to be encompassed with at all times. He must be taught to say the morning blessings each day, to thank G-d for the goodness which he has been blessed - with clothing, being able to set himself upon the ground, for being granted strength to serve G-d etc. He is to be taught the importance of thanking G-d for the food which He has given him, for even though his parents may purchase the food for him, it is still G-d that provides not only the physical sustenance, but the means to purchase this as well. And one who eats and does not thank G-d is considered a thief - having stolen from G-d Almighty Himself!

He is to know the most basic tenant of Judaism - that G-d is One - and must recite the passages dealing with this at least at that time of day that he closes his eyes, entrusting his spirit back to G-d who has lent it to him in this world - and who will demand an accounting of the activities he has been occupied with throughout the day, and his entire life!

Education does not begin when one has already matured - perhaps at the age of 20 or later, when one has already learned a little about the world and now has the free choice to decide for himself what path is best.

Education begins with the parent teaching the child the important values of G-dliness, just when the child is ready to tackle the world and does not yet know what to do. Being able to speak and walk, the child is ready to deal with the external forces and environments that will influence him for the rest of his life.

What better way to teach than by giving this child a Jewish appearance already - by leaving his sidelocks?!

What better way than by giving him the four cornered garment made of 8 strings and 5 knots - a total of 13, together with the numerical value of the word "ציצית" - which is 600 - making 613 corresponding to the amount of commandments in the Torah - to remind him to observe these commandments at all times throughout his life?!

What better way than to teach the child the importance of thanking G-d each day with a variety of blessings for all the wonderful things he has been given - every single day of his life?!

What better way than teaching a child to thank G-d for the food he eats each day?

What better way than teaching a child to value his soul and to appreciate the absolute unity of G-d, by saying the Shema - the prayer affirming the oneness of G-d - each night before he entrusts his soul to G-d, to be refreshed and prepared for another day of service in the army of G-d, a duty he is entrusted with for the entire length of his life!

This is the Torah, it's beauty and it's gentleness. Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peaceful"

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