What determines the kind of adults our children become? Some argue that it all depends on how they are raised, the atmosphere in the home, the examples shown by the parents. Others argue that every child is unique - born with a personality and characteristics of his own. We teach them and guide them but nature trumps nurture. Most of us would agree that it’s most likely a combination of both nature and nurture, yet from a seemingly blaring contradiction in the Torah, our sages beautifully show us how nurture is everything. The seeming contradiction is regarding the description of the cherubim.

Cherubim, guardian angels or destroying angels

As we read now in the verses of the book of Leviticus, we read and learn about the sacrifices and happenings in the holy Temple. Of all the holy utensils in the temple, the Aron Hakodesh, the Holy Ark, was the holiest containing within it the tablets which Moses brought down from Mount sinai. Standing guard atop the ark were two Cherubim described as baby-faced angels made of gold.
This is in fact not the first time the Cherubim are introduced in the Torah.
In the first Parsha, Bereshit, G-d banishes Adam and Eve from Gan Eden and appoints guards to guard the way to the tree of life: “He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24)
In this first appearance of the Cherubim in the Torah, Rashi has a completely different, even contradicting, definition for the Cherubim.

He describes them here as: “Angels of destruction.”
In the same Torah, the cherubim appear in two circumstances, as the guardians of the tree of life and as the guardians of the holy ark. Once as angels of destruction and once as baby-faced angels. The contrast is quite stark but as is often the case in Torah, the most troubling contradictions often offer the deepest insights.
The Torah is telling us how much nurture matters, how the way we educate is absolutely crucial in making sure our children grow up to be the people we wish for them to be.

They will embody purity, innocence and holiness

The bond with our children

The same angels that have the potential of sitting atop the holy ark and to be described as ‘baby-faced angels’ also have the potential of becoming an angel of destruction. It’s all about nurture.
In the context of the holy temple, a place of service and devotion to a greater purpose, devotion to Hashem, the cherubim are baby-like; innocent and pure. But in the context of Gan Eden, where all the delights are granted at no cost, where one can have whatever he wants without owing anything in return, the cherub is described as an angel of destruction.

This lesson is most applicable to how we raise our kids. If we raise our kids in an environment where they are granted whatever they want, where we spoil them just because, the results will be that of the cherubim from Gan Eden. But if we raise our kids in the context of service, duty and accountability, they will embody purity, innocence and holiness and be guardians of Hashem’s precious Torah.

May we merit to nurture our precious children to be the cherubim that will guard Hashem's Torah and give us true pride and joy.

Amen ve Amen

Rabbi Yosef Romano
yosefromano@gmail.com .

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