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Areinfirinish - A Child's Entry Into Cheder

Areinfirinish - A Child's Entry Into Cheder

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In Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:1, the Alter Rebbe writes:

When is a father obligated to begin teaching his son [verses from the Torah]? When [the son] knows how to speak. He should teach him the verses: Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe and Shema Yisrael.

As a child progresses, after his parents teach him at home for a certain time, he is taken to a cheder to study under a teacher. Although there is no specific age stated when this should be done, it is common practice in certain communities to begin at the age of three, on the day of or shortly after the upsherinish. In one of his letters, the Rebbe1 writes that if parents educate a child at home, they need not rush to send him to cheder before the age of three. Similarly, if the common custom in a community is to begin cheder2 somewhat later, the beginning of the child’s formal study may be delayed until that time.3

The Order of the Arienfirenish

The customs for the arienfirenish to follow are based on the portion Hachnasah L’Beis HaMelamed in the Siddur of Rav Yaakov Emden and the description of the Tzemach Tzedek’s arienfirenish in Sefer HaSichos 5700.

In the morning, the father takes his child to the cheder wrapped in a tallis,4 so that he should not see anything impure.5 This also trains him in the practice of modesty and protects him from the evil eye.6 After entering the cheder, the child is taken out from the tallis and it is then draped around his shoulders.

The teacher seats the child on his lap7 and begins teaching him the Alef Beis. It is customary to begin with the Alef from the title-page of the Tanya.8 The teacher points to the letter, says Alef, and the child repeats Alef. Using a toothpick,9 the teacher coats the Alef with honey. The child recites the blessing Shehakol and then licks the honey.10

Afterwards, the teacher reads the Alef-Beis letter after letter for the child, pointing to the letters and having the child repeat after him. He then reads the letters in reverse order Suf-Shin-Reish, with the child repeating. He then teaches the child each of the nekudos (vowels), reading them in order and then in reverse order with the child repeating after him.

The teacher then takes a Chumash Vayikra11 and reads the first few verses.12 The child should repeat after the teacher word after word.

The teacher then recites and the child repeats the verse:13 תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהלת יעקב “The Torah which Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob” and the request תורה תהא אמונתי וא-ל שדי בעזרתי “May the Torah be my faith and may the A-lmighty G‑d be my succor.”

The parents give the teacher a honey cake,14 cooked in oil,15 on which the following verses have been inscribed:16 א-דני י-הוה נתן לי לשון למודים לדעת לעות את יעף דבר יעיר בבקר בבקר יעיר לי אזן לשמע כלמודים: א-דני י-הוה פתח לי אזן ואנכי לא מריתי אחור לא נסוגתי “G‑d, the L-rd, has granted me a tongue of instruction to appreciate the need of the times, to teach those thirsty for the word [of G‑d]. He arouses me morning after morning. He spurs my ear to hear as one would the students. G‑d, the L-rd, has opened my ear; I did not rebel. I did not withdraw to the rear.” The teacher reads the verses and the child repeats after him word for word. The teacher then removes the inscriptions and gives the cake to the boy, who eats it after reciting the blessing borei minei mezonos.

The child is then given a shelled hard-boiled egg upon which the following verse has been written:17 ויאמר אלי בן אדם בטנך תאכל ומעיך תמלא את המגלה הזאת אשר אני נתן אליך ואכלה ותהי בפי כדבש למתוק “And he said to me: ‘Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your gut with this scroll which I will give you.’ I ate, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.”

Again, the teacher reads the verses and the child repeats after him word for word. The child then eats the egg.

The child gives generously to tzedakah.18 Candies are thrown upon the child and he is told that they were thrown by the Angel Michoel.19 The child also distributes bags of candies to the other children.

In the evening, it is customary for the family to hold a celebratory feast.20

Footnotes
1.
Igros Kodesh, Vol. XIV, p. 39ff.
2.
In one of his letters, the Rebbe clarifies that even a kindergarten where the children play most of the day can be called a cheder since the children also learn to recite blessings.
3.
In such a situation, there are some who follow the practice of carrying out the arienfirenish on the day of or shortly after the upsherinish even though the child does not enter school at that time.
4.
Rokeach, sec. 296; Migdal Oz, p. 174; see Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 67.
5.
Indeed, care should be taken concerning this throughout the day. To whatever extent possible, the child should be exposed only to holy sights. See also Siddur Yaakov Emden who explains that for similar reasons the herds of the Jewish people were not permitted near Mount Sinai at the time of the Giving of the Torah.
6.
Machzor Vitri.
7.
This recalls the verses “As the nursemaid will carry the suckling” (Numbers 11:12) which describes Moses’ care for the Jewish people, and “I have trained Ephraim that [a leader] will take them in his arms” (Hoshea 11:3) which describes G‑d’s care for the Jewish people.
8.
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 476.
9.
So as not to ruin the book.
10.
Chagigah 13a (citing the Song of Songs 4:11) uses honey as a metaphor for the mystical dimension of Torah study. Tasting the honey empowers the child to proceed until he masters this dimension of study as well. On another level, the honey implies that the words of the Torah the child studies should be sweet and satisfying.
11.
See Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 68. The child’s study of Chumash is begun in this manner, fulfilling our Sages’ directive (Midrash Tanchuma, Parshas Tzav, sec. 14, et al): “May the pure ones [children untainted by sin] come and occupy themselves with pure subjects [the book of Vayikra which speaks of the sacrificial offerings and the laws of ritual purity].
12.
Some also have the custom of adding verse 17 from Chapter 3.
13.
Deuteronomy 33:4;
14.
Grain is also one of the metaphors for the Torah. More particularly, חטה, “wheat,” is numerically equivalent to 22, the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The significance of honey has been described above
15.
Oil is also a metaphor for P’nimiyus HaTorah, the inner, mystic dimensions of Torah study.
16.
Isaiah 50:4-5. The verses should be inscribed in the cake with a toothpick, not written with icing.
17.
Ezekiel 3:3.
18.
The child’s parents should also give generously to tzedakah on that day.
19.
See Sefer HaSichos 5701, p. 28. In Sichos Shabbas Parshas Pinchas, 5734, the Rebbe explained that the sweets in fact come from the angel Michael, for he is the source of this sweetness. The people throwing the sweets to the child are acting perhaps unconsciously as his agents.
20.
See Sefer HaSichos 5700, p. 69; Sefer HaSichos 5705, p. 104.
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chani Montreal July 5, 2015

I made the cake out of margarine instead of oil is that ok? Reply

Rochel Chein for chabad.org January 31, 2014

Re: Posuk on cake Sefer HaSichos 5700, page 67, specifies that the verses are inscribed in the cake itself. No reason is given there, but perhaps it is to resemble the Luchos - Tablets - upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed.

Mazal tov! Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, N.Y. January 31, 2014

Posuk on cake Am getting ready to do upsherin cake again and found your essay.
What is the reason not to do posuk in icing(which i have been doing till now and getting ready to do again)? Reply

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