Throughout the centuries and millennia, it has been the hope and dream of many Jewish mothers and fathers that they merit raising a son who becomes a Talmid Chacham.
Talmid Chacham, lit. a “wise student”, is an honorific title given to a Torah scholar whose Torah knowledge both defines and refines him. [To learn more about the ethical refinement and good character expected of a Talmid Chacham, see Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Deyos (Ethics), Chapter Five, which can be accessed online at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/910345/jewish/Deot-Chapter-Five.htm]
Everything about the Talmid Chacham is measured and balanced, for the Torah that he has absorbed through many years of study serves to guide him and to help him maintain his spiritual equilibrium in all situations.
The very title we give the Torah scholar - Talmid Chacham – reflects this balance. He may be a chacham, a wise man who has attained great wisdom, but he is forever the talmid, a student who is eager to learn from all those around him.
This week’s Torah portion, Parshas Terumah, deals with the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. One of the most important vessels in the Mishkan was the Aron, the Holy Ark, which was placed in the Holy of Holies, and which contained the Luchos (the Twin Tablets upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments).
Our Sages teach that the Aron with the Luchos inside it symbolizes the Talmid Chacham who has Torah knowledge contained within him. And the Talmud in Yoma 72b writes that just as the Aron was covered with pure gold from within and from without (see Exodus 25:11), so, too, must a Torah Scholar be consistent; his inner character must match his public demeanor, his actions must conform to his professed beliefs.
It is a time-honored tradition for Jewish mothers everywhere to pray after lighting the Shabbos candles on Friday night that their children grow up learned and righteous. This is based on a Talmudic declaration (in Shabbos 23b) that “one who is scrupulous in the kindling of Sabbath lights will be blessed with children who are Torah scholars”.
The Mahara”l of Prague explains that a lit candle represents proper balance for it is essentially a physical candle together with an intangible and ethereal flame. Friday evening at the onset of Shabbos is also the meeting between the physical, mundane workweek and the spiritual Day of Rest. One who is meticulous about lighting candles on Friday evening – the ultimate balance between physicality and spirituality – will merit that his child will become a Talmid Chacham, a Torah scholar who is guided by the Torah with perfect balance and equilibrium.
Here is the text of this beautiful prayer:
May it be Your will L-ord, my G-d and G-d of my forefathers, that you show favor to me [my husband, my sons, my daughters, my father, my mother] and all my relatives; and that You grant us and all Israel a good and long life; that You remember us with a beneficent memory and blessing; that You consider us with a consideration of salvation and compassion; that You bless us with great blessings; that You make our households complete; that You cause Your Presence to dwell among us. Privilege me to raise children and grandchildren who are wise and understanding, who love G-d and fear G-d, people of truth, holy offspring, attached to G-d, who illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds and with every labor in the service of the Creator. Please, hear my supplication at this time, in the merit of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, our mothers and cause our light to illuminate that it not be extinguished forever, and let Your countenance shine so that we are saved. Amen.