Long ago, in the days of the famed rabbi, the Maharal of Prague, the children of the city looked forward eagerly to Shabbat of the Torah portion of Beshalach. Even the cold European winter could not keep them home on this Shabbat.

"Come on," Aron urged his little brother Lazer, pulling him gently by the hand. "We don't want to be late."

Bundled in their warm sheepskin coats, the two boys hurried down the narrow cobblestone streets of the Jewish quarter of Prague.

"There's Benjamin with his father," Aron said as he spotted his friend up ahead. "Let's catch up to them and we'll go together."

From every corner, children, parents and teachers were making their way to the central synagogue where the great Jewish leader and rabbi, the Maharal of Prague, had instructed them to gather on the roof of the synagogue. There the teachers would tell the children the story of the splitting of the Red Sea.

"Even the birds chirped and fluttered their wings when the Jewish people sang," the teachers would describe enthusiastically. "And the little children picked the buds off the sea plants and fed them to the chirping birds."

After the story was told, the teachers, following the rabbi's instructions, gave the children buckwheat grains which they tossed to the birds and the hens below. "Just like the children fed the birds at the splitting of the sea," the children of Prague called out with delight.

Then a hush swept over the roof of the synagogue. Everyone turned toward the beloved leader of Prague. The Maharal himself had joined them, and now he blessed the children. "May you merit to bring your children to Torah, marriage, and good deeds," the Rabbi said.

This was the custom that the Maharal encouraged in ancient Prague.

Are you wondering why the rabbi insisted that the children follow this custom, and why he himself took the time to participate? The Maharal was a brilliant scholar who taught and wrote very deep explanations of the Torah.

This practice on Shabbat Shirah taught the people a great lesson, but the lesson was not about how to keep mitzvot. After all, it only recalled a story in the Midrash. The story wasn't even about people, but about birds. And the day was Shabbat, when a Jew should strive to be involved only in holiness. Still, the Maharal gave some of his precious time to the little children. The reason was that he wanted to stress to them how important it is to follow our customs and to be happy about keeping our ancient traditions.