Welcome back from the Pesach recess! I hope you are ready and eager for our fifth session of the JUICE course "BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVES ON CHILD DEVELOPMENT". The subject of this session is especially suited for this time of the year as we emerge from the celebration of "Pesach" (Passover), the Jewish holiday which commemorates the physical liberation of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt and begin the countdown and anticipation for the Shavuot holiday which commemorates the spiritual redemption of the Jewish people upon receiving the Bible at the revelation on Mount Sinai.

The Biblical perspective on child development thus parallels the Bible which begins with the story of creation, the history of mankind and the Jewish people, their physical deliverance from bondage and finally their spiritual and intellectual redemption upon accepting the Bible at Mount Sinai. In this course, we began with the "Foundations of Development", conception, the birth process and welcoming the newborn.

We are now about to commence the session on the child's physical development, which we will learn is a requisite for the child's healthy spiritual and intellectual development, which will follow in detail. I hope you find this session enjoyable and informative. Sections marked with the star * will be supplemented in the JUICE Forum. The Jewish tradition of infant care is best summarized in the following statement: " A baby should be as well looked after as a king, a high priest, and a learned man."(A. Jellinek, "Beit Hamidrash, 11:96.) The Hebrew word for infant is "tinok", which means "suckling." The age span of the term corresponds to the period between birth and eighteen or twenty-four months of life. Modern psychologists note that the period of infancy is at its end when the baby utters a few phrases, while talmudic scholars observed that the child begins to talk at about the time solid food is introduced.(Berakhot 38) Thus, in Judaic literature, the word tinok is applied as long as the baby nurses (Kettubot60a: Iggerot Moshe 2:6) according to Rabbi Eliezer, the first twenty-four months; and according to Rabbi Joshua, up to five vears of age (Kettubot 60a; Yevamot 43a).

While the recognized period for nursing has diminished since Biblical times and most babies receive solid food at the latest by the age of fifteen months, the Hebrew word is still often applied to a child after that period of time to denote a sense of endearment. It thus symbolizes the Judaic philosophy of infant care and devotion to the newborn based on love and tenderness. In accordance with Halakhah (Jewish law), the word "tinok" is applied as long as the child still has the same status as a sick person not in mortal danger, allowing certain actions on the Sabbath, otherwise forbidden by rabbinical law, to fulfill his needs. While the Chazon Ish defines this period as the first two or three years of life in normal cases and beyond that age if the child is still eating baby food,(Chazon Ish, Mo'ed, 60, 59, sec 4) we find that the limit is set at about ten years, depending on the child's state of development and health (Minhat Yitzhak 1:78)

The physical needs of the infant are aptly summarized in the advice given to Abbaye by his competent and wise nanny: "the care and development of the infant requires first that he be bathed and anointed with oil; later, when he grows older, that he be given eggs and dairy products; and when he grows older still, that he be given the freedom to play with toys.(Yoma 78) This three principles of infant care as guidelines for healthy development: (1) personal hygiene, (2) proper nutrition, and (3) developmental play.


The emphasis on personal hygiene is better understood if we consider the Judaic viewpoint on the subject. We learn in the Talmud that "cleanliness leads to holiness."(Sotah 12:5, Avoda Zarah 20b) Personal hygiene is a spiritual duty, for it is only logical that proper hygiene should be applied at all stages of the child's development as he/she is created in the image of G-d. The following are various aspects of hygiene related to noted in the Talmud related to children as noted in the Biblical sources. The laws and comments which follow offer sound advice on child care. BATHING

Bathing the child is considered so essential that we find in the "Midrash Mei Hashiloach" the statement: "The existence of the world is maintained with six things and one of these is bathing". The Talmud stipulates that the hands, legs, and eyes must be washed every day." (Shabbat 108b) Maimonides advised that one should bathe after dinner is digested and that anointment with oil should follow the bath (Hilkhot De'ot 4/15) This is excellent advice in the case of infant care and is recommended by many pediatricians. The benefit of such a schedule is pointed out by Rabbi Chanina, who attributed his vigor in old age to the baths and oil treatments he was given as a child. (Chullin 20b). Bathing facilities are so important that a learned man "may not live in a town in which there is not, among other things, a public bath (Sanhedrin 17b). Nevertheless, limits are recognized, for we find in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 28) the warning that if a child has been bitten by a wasp, or has a sting or a wound or a disease such as malaria, it is dangerous for him/her to be bathed. In all such cases, it is advisable to consult the doctor. Special regulations are stipulated in Halakhah concerning bathing on Sabbath and holidays*.


Biblical law stipulates that the hands must be washed upon rising from the bed in the morning to protect against evil spirits (Shabbat 109a) It is forbidden to touch any part of the body before washing the hands according to the ritual. Washing the hands before meals is also required according to biblical law (Chullin 106a) and the Talmud states that the mouth must be rinsed after eating, by drinking water. Shabbat 41a) It is recommended that children be taught to wash their accordance with the above traditions. Even infants' hands are washed upon waking and before eating to assure maximum cleanliness, as their hands sometimes touch food even before they are able to feed themselves." (Shabbat 109a). Hands must be washed upon leaving the bathroom in accordance with the Code of Jewish Law (2,9). The warning that an unwashed hand touching the ear may cause deafness exemplifies the harm done when hands remain unwashed (Chaim David Halevy "Mekor Chaim" T.A. 1965, vol I,2:7). On related matters of hygiene, the Talmud notes that coins should not be put in the mouth,(Jerusalem Talmud, Terumot 7:4), a very appropriate warning for infants and toddlers. In considering other elements of hygiene, the Talmud notes that one should not be kissed on lips-but rather on the back of the hand (to avoid spreading germs) (Berakhot 8b), again, very appropriate in caring for children.


Jewish sages have always recognized that sunshine and fresh air are essential to health.((Kettubot 110b,Nedarim 8b) Mothers and other caregivers should, however, keep in mind the commentary that damp air is harmful to the body (Sotah 47a) and schedule outings accordingly. A regular outing during the day will do wonders to calm even the most fretful infant. The Talmud notes that "When the sun appears, patient recovers." (Bava Batra 16b) The sun does wonders with the sniffles and other ailments. It is, thus, advisable to expose a child with cold symptoms to the sun whenever possible, unless he/she is running a fever. Special regulations are imposed in Jewish law concerning the use of baby-carriages on the Sabbath and holidays.*


Parents and caregivers must make sure that children have adequate clothing for their needs and comfort. This is learned from the example set by the Almighty, who provided Adam and Eve with "clothing" so that they might dressed properly (Genesis 3:21). Mothers who are encumbered with piles of washing machine loads will be comforted to know that they are adhering to a biblical precept that clothes be washed frequently, for changes of clothes are indispensable to health.(Eruvin 65a) The sages also point out that it is dangerous to wear damp clothing. All garments must be dried completely to avoid risk of skin disease.(Pesachim 112b) Thus, mothers must take care that the infant's clothes are kept clean and dry and meet their growing needs. In all cases, the law forbidding the mixture of linen and wool clothing must be obeyed.(Leviticus 19:19) Special regulations are determined in Halakhah concerning the care of diapers, rubber pants, and sheets on the Sabbath.* To summarize the importance of hygiene, Rav Samuel said: "A dirty head causes blindness, dirty clothing brings on boredom, and dirtiness of the body brings on skin eruptions." (Nedarim 81)


The Talmud notes that it is important to take good care of the teeth, for decayed teeth are a cause of malnutrition.(Niddah 63a) According to a passage in "Berakhot: 40a" it is advisable to drink water after eating and to gargle with aseptic and salt after meals. Thus, infants may be given a bit of water to drink after meals to rinse out their mouth.The Code of Jewish Law stipulates that the mouth is to be washed every day upon rising.(Orach Chayim 4:11) According to a passage in Shabbat (123a) children's mouths were cleansed with "asube yanuke", (children's herbs,) a possible antecedent to children's toothpaste. Special guidelines are determined in Halakhah for the care of the teeth on the Sabbath.*


Nails should be trimmed periodically, and the parings should be disposed of in a manner to assure that they are burnt. (Moed Katan 18a, Niddah 17a) It is customary to cut the nails on Friday and not Thursday (so that good grooming becomes a part of the preparations for the Sabbath) (Kitzur Shnei Luchot Habrith 61). The left-hand nails should be cut first, alternating the fingers rather than cutting in a row (Orach Chayim 260:1) The nails of the hands and feet should not be cut on the same day. (Zohar III 79a-b) CARE OF THE HAIR

Hair should be routinely washed and combed. Not to comb one's hair is bad for the eyes, according to passages in Shabbat (41a) and Nedarim (81). According to the Talmud (Shabbat 41a), hair was washed with soda and soap and then anointed with oil. The hair of boys was not cut until they were at least three years old (so that they might grow the traditional side-curls). A feast was held (and is still celebrated today in many Hasidic circles) on the day of cutting the hair to symbolize the child's entry into the world of mitzvot (good deeds) (Shaarei Teshuva 531:5, Leviticus 19:27) In Israel, the cutting ceremony (known as "Halaka") is traditionally held at the tomb of Rabbenu bar Yochai in Meron.


The Bible mentions that children exercised with balls and weights according to the size of each individual child (Zecharia 12:4, commentary). Biblical sages recognized that regular exercise is essential for mental health, stimulation of blood circulation and as an aid to sleep. Doing simple exercises with infants during diaper changes and whenever the baby is at ease serves the same purpose and helps to develop motor coordination.


The biblical perspective on child development recognizes that sleep is like food and medication for the body; the rest provided by sleep is life-giving.(Divrei Rabbi Eliezer 12) Drowsiness is brought on by eating. A person (or infant) who has not eaten or has eaten little has difficulty in falling asleep while one who has eaten well has a sweet sleep.(Tanchume Ki Tissa 3; Berakhot 61b). From the Halakha stipulated in the Talmud (Shabbat 2,5) that a light may be extinguished on the Sabbath to allow a sick person to sleep, we learn of the therapeutic importance attributed to sleep.

Cribs in biblical and Talmudic times were made of wood (Genesis Rabbah 8:10) or glass (Tosefata, Kelim) They had short legs to ensure the baby's safety and prevent major injury if the child should fall out.(Oholot 12:4) Bells were put on the cradle to help put the baby to sleep.(Shabbat 58, Berakhot 53) There were also swinging cradles which the same purpose.(Genesis Rabbas 8:10) A fan was used to keep flies away from the cradle and rubber sheets were placed under the child to keep the bedclothes clean.(Chullin 91b) Maimonides advised putting baby to sleep on his or her side. ( a practice verified by recent studies carried out to prevent the tragic "cradle death syndrome). Provisions for the infant's sleep in biblical times were essentially the same as those we make for infants today with utmost consideration for baby's comfort. This attests to the importance attached to sleep for healthy development.


The primary function which the mother fulfills upon the birth of her child is breastfeeding. According to Halakhah, this is a task she carries out through her role as a wife.(kettubot 59b) By thus ensuring that each newborn is nursed, Halakhah makes provision for the best possible nutrition for the child as well as the opportunity for the mother to express her love for the infant. During the first three months of life, the infant functions mainly on the basis of reflex and stimulation. Physical contact is essential for the child' s developing sense of self . As the mother cuddles and fondles the child during nursing, the infant learns the warmth of love and trust, which is the foundation for healthy mental development. Modern psychologists as well, stress the fact that love must be communicated physically, especially in the first few months of life.(M. Jersil, "Emotional Development"; (New York, Wiley, 1954)

If a woman does not have enough milk, this is considered a curse.(Kettubot 59) The infant must not suffer on this account, however, and the mother may hire a wetnurse. The Hebrew word for wetnurse, "omenet", is interchanged with the word "em" ("mother"), suggesting that the maternal role may be fulfilled by a woman who is not the natural mother as long as she gives the child the love and warmth necessary for life.(Yoma 78) Thus, Halakhah stipulates that a woman who is breastfeeding her child (or someone else's child) may not marry until the child is twenty-four months old. (Yevamot 43; Igerot Moshe, sec. 6; Shulkhan Arukh 145:14) This law is very interesting, for beyond ensuring that the child will have the best source of nourishment in infancy, it shows a basic consideration for the emotional development of the child. As we now know the first two years of life are crucial for the child's development of a sense of trust and a healthy mental state. The Bible makes sure that the child has all the technical opportunities to receive what is naturally due him/her - the care and attention of his mother (or mother-substitute) for the first two years of life.


Another vital point inherent in this law is that it allows for natural spacing between children. Modern psychology has pointed out the importance of the first three years of life for the child's developing personality. (Burton White, "The First Three Years of Life"; N.Y. Avon Books, 1975) Children who experience the birth of a baby brother or sister within that period of time are forced to share the attention they received until then with the new arrival. This causes a number of problems, including sibling rivalry, jealousy, and a deep sense of frustration at times when the child feels that he is receiving less attention. By setting the time span for breastfeeding at eighteen to twenty-four months, the rabbinical sages incorporated a built-in mechanism for spacing between children, for it is a law of nature that the lactating mother has slim chances of becoming pregnant (although this possibility is not entirely eliminated). In fact, nursing mothers are one of the three categories of women who may legally practice contraception in accordance with Halakhah.(Yevamot 12b, 35b; Kettubot 37) Nevertheless, the question of natural spacing is a complex one in Jewish law, and parents must discuss it with a competent Rabbi before making a decision on the matter. In practice, the Talmud stipulates that the mother is required to suckle the infant only as long as he/she wants to nurse.(Kettubot 60) If the infant recognizes his mother and wants to nurse only from her, she is compelled to nurse him-according to Rav, for three months; according to Rav Samuel, for thirty days at least-but no set limit may be determined, for in each case it should be as long as the infant wants to nurse. In modern Responsa, we find the awareness that babies rarely want to nurse after fifteen months. (Igerot Moshe, Even Haezer 72:6) Furthermore, if the child is weak, breastfeeding is obligatory.(Kettubot 59)

The emotional and physical benefits of breastfeeding were known to be so important that a mother who refused or neglected to suckle her child was compared to an ostrich, a creature that has no feeling for her offspring.(Job 39) A symbolic representation of such a mother is used by the prophet Jeremiah to represent cruelty.(Lamentations 4:3-4) The mother's duty to breastfeed is upheld even if she had vowed not to nurse. According to the school of Hillel, the husband may invalidate his wife's vow and compel her to breastfeed.(Kettubot 59b) If the woman is divorced, the husband can compel her to nurse only if the child is over thirty days, in which case he must pay child-support.(Kettubopt 59-60) Nursing is so basic a need for the infant that even if he nurses all day no harm comes from it.(Tosefta, Sotah 4:3) According to a Midrash, although mother's milk is of uniform quality the baby finds in it various delectable tastes, so that he never tires of it. On the subject of demand feeding versus scheduled feedings, Judaism takes a clear stand: "The infant must nurse at any hour during the day or night." There is no room for controversy when the infant's well-being is at stake. Until the infant settles into his own routine feeding schedule, he should be fed when he/she is hungry, even at midnight.(Jerusalem Talmud, Berakhot 9,3) A woman who is nursing a child must not do other work, as is exemplified by Hannah, who put aside all domestic duties in order to suckle her child (the book of "Samuel"). In this decision, she was wholeheartedly supported by her husband, Elkanah, who said to her. "Do what seems to be good, remain at home until the child is weaned.(I Samuel 1:21-23) The same advice is offered today by pediatricians and by the La Leche League,(The International Organization for Nursing Mothers) who recognize the importance of the mother's having a relaxed state of mind and freedom from tension if she is to nurse successfully. A woman must adhere to the laws of modesty during nursing; according to Rabbi Meir, a woman who nurses in the street may be divorced. (Gittin 89a)


The mother's milk is always preferred to that of the wetnurse.(Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31:1) However, if the mother is ill, or if she has died, a wetnurse may be employed to provide the infant with natural mother's milk. The Talmud allows the wetnurse to take over the responsibility of nursing even in cases where the mother's status prevents her from doing so. (Exodus 2:7-9; Kettubot 60b) Halakhah thus makes allowances to ensure that each child has the possibility to nurse under all circumstances. Special allowances are made for nursing mothers on the Sabbath and holidays. * (Joshua Neubirt, "Shemirat Shabbat Kehilkhato"; J-m, Feldheim 1965, ch. 23:25) Orphan babies were suckled by neighborhood women in turn or were fed milk and eggs, which were considered the second best nutrition for infants.(Avot de-Rabbi Natan 31:1) The wetnurse must not suckle more than one child if she is given a charge.(Yevamot 42a) The wetnurse must be given abundant food.(Ketubbot 60b)

According to some rabbis, it is permitted for a gentile to suckle a Jewish infant if the infant is in mortal danger and must receive breast milk and if the gentile woman is the only person available.(Tanhuma, Exodus 7:26; Yerushalmi 76) Others cite the case of Moses, who refused to nurse from a gentile woman and accepted nourishment only when given the breast of a Jewish woman.(Sotah 12' Exodus Rabbah, Tanhuma 7) Contemporary rabbis have concluded that although it may be permissible in certain cases for a child to be nursed by a gentile, if this may be prevented all the better.(Responsa of Azriel, 10:80)


The diet of a nursing mother is of importance for the well-being of the infant as well as the mother, for " all that the mother eats, the infant receives through nursing."(Song of Songs Rabbah 3) This has been confirmed by modern research pointing out the importance of a well balanced nutritious diet for the lactating mother. Thus, rabbinical sages warned that a woman should not nurse if she must eat certain forbidden foods as a result of illness, for this will transmit a bad habit to the infant.(Exodus 2:7) The following foods were considered bad for nursing women according to Rav Kahana : green cucumbers or melons, young greens, small fish, Abbaye included the quince fruit. Rav Papa included palm leaves (which were eaten when soft) and unripe dates. Rav Ashi added sauces made from curdled milk and fish hash. All these foods have the effect of stopping the flow of breast milk or altering its composition.(Kettubot 60b) Thus, a lactating woman should make sure that she eats fresh dairy products to avoid upsetting her digestive system. It is beneficial for the nursing mother to drink a bit of wine,(Kettubot 60-61) but no more than one cup was ever offered to a woman.(Kettubot 65a) In considering the principle that the baby is nourished by whatever the lactating mother eats, the following food items are recommended for nursing women, for each has a beneficial effect on the child: old wine and meat will maintain the child's health as well as the mother's; fish eaten during the nursing period will make the child graceful; adding eggs to the diet acts to produce large-eyed children; parsley is especially recommended to produce beautiful children; coriander acts to produce muscular children; and lemons serve to give children a pleasant odor.(Yoma 78, Kettubot 60b) A nursing mother who finds that her milk flow has decreased or ceased is advised to eat eggs and milk ( Yevamot 44).If a mother wishes to breastfeed successfully, she will do well to follow a well-balanced nutritious diet in accordance with the recommendations of the pediatrician. This will help her bestow upon the child a great gift with which to begin life: "the blessing of the breast" (Gen. 49:25).


1n order to demonstrate the importance of play in a child's development, Rav Abbaye notes that Rabbah used to buy broken crocks at the market and bring them to his son so that he could play with them and break them if he wished to let off energy (Yoma 78b) The following anecdote recited by the sages points out the importance of play for the infant: A man left a clause in his will stipulating that none of his belongings should be given to his son until the latter made a fool of himself. Rabbi Yose went to consult Rabbi Joshua ben Karcha about this case. When approaching his home, he saw the sage through the window as the latter was crawling on all fours with a piece of grass in his mouth, playing horses with his baby. Upon entering the house, he asked Rabbi Joshua about the case. Rabbi Joshua laughed and answered: "Why, the exact thing which you have asked me about has just occurred here. For when a man has children, he often makes himself look like a fool to amuse them."(Genesis Rabbah 47)

Throughout the Talmud, we find references to children's toys, such as a toy horse,(Tosefta, Shabbat 10:3) the ball (Zevachim 88b), toy hats, and various fruits and vegetables used for play.(Dr. N. Morris, "Toldot Ha-Chinnukh shel Am Yisrael; T.A. Omanut 1960, pg. 297.) It is customary among orthodox circles not to give children toys with images of people or forbidden animals to play with.

It is evident that the principle of play as an important element in learning and motor development and as a pleasant pastime is recognized in Judaism. In light of the ever-increasing sophistication of children's toys, a number of guidelines have been established in the Code of Jewish Law and Responsa so that parents may select the proper toys for use on the Sabbath by preschoolers.*


Biblical law determines the obligation of the father to feed and educate his children for a required number of years and the laws concerning the child's status in the family and society (Kiddushin 29a, Kettubot 65a, 49a, Shulkhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 251d) The daily care of .children as discussed in this chapter is a consequence of the parents' natural instincts. It is the motherly instinct to provide for her child's needs during the most vulnerable period of life. Nevertheless, this natural instinct is implicit in the very essence of Judaism, as we learn from the example set by the Almighty and imprinted as part of creation and human development. The fact that the Almighty created man after the universe was completed is attributed to the care He took to ensure in advance that all the necessities of life would be prepared for man's needs. ((Eruvin 18a) Likewise, the Talmud note that notes that man was created at the end of the creation of universe so that he would be able to eat and nourish himself immediately. (Sanhedrin 38). The Almighty also provided man with clothing and all other needs for survival and development. (Gittin 12 (Rashi) Man, who is created in the image of G-d, must learn from this example and provide for the needs of his offspring upon birth (E.F. Weinberger "Yad Ephraim", 1997) together with the additional element of the love and tenderness which are fundamental for healthy development.

The natural mother is the person most suited for this task. Her love for the child is natural. When the prophet Isaiah speaks of the comfort to be offered by the Almighty to the people of Israel, he uses the example of a mother comforting and caring for her child.(Isaiah 66:13) The fact that each child is naturally considered fragile and unique by his mother makes her the one most suitable to fulfill his physical needs. (Proverbs 4:3)

Attention to the spiritual and emotional needs of the child, by contrast, is a responsibility of both parents. The importance of providing for the emotional and spiritual needs of children should also be learned from the example set by the Almighty who bestowed commandments for spiritual and emotional development to man immediately after his creation. (Genesis 2:16; Sanhedrin 56b) This model dramatizes the view that man's most important task in life is to instruct his children in the way of the Lord, the way of life that assures a healthy and emotional development (Genesis 18:19)

The child's healthy physical development is a foundation and a prelude for his/her spiritual, emotional and intellectual well-being just as Israel's physical deliverance from Egypt was the prerequisite for its spiritual, emotional and intellectual redemption at Mount Sinai.

If the parents are unable for any reason to fulfill their roles caretakers and teachers, Judaism allows for substitutes to carry out the important tasks. Thus a governess may assume responsibility for the child's physical and emotional needs in infancy. (IISamuel 12; Kettubot 48,61) (Sometimes, it was the grandmother who assumed this role.) (IISamuel 4) In other cases, the "bet din" (court) is responsible for appointing a parent-substitute or for making sure that the child's physical and spiritual needs are met in other ways (Rambam, Hilkhot Nachalot 11:10; Sukkah 2b)

Under no circumstances is any child to be neglected or denied his/her basic physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and intellectual needs. Provisions for fulfilling these needs are woven into the fabric of Judaism, as is evident from the references in the Bible to motherly love and the father's responsibilities to his children, as well as the numerous discussions in the Talmud concerning the child's needs, legal status, characteristics and rights to a healthy life in accordance with the principles of Biblical Law. In this sense, one should recognize that the primary outline for the "Universal Rights of the Child" including all the requirements for healthy physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual development are inscribed in Biblical law which preceded the United Nations document on the "Universal Rights of the Child" by thousands of years.


1. In what way does the Biblical perspective of child development consider physical development as a foundation and prerequisite for healthy spiritual, emotional and intellectual development?

2. How does this differ or compare with contemporary views of the child's healthy physical development?

3. What principles and values does the Biblical perspective on the child's physical development have to offer contemporary society?

*** A special supplement on this chapter will appear within the next few days on the JUICE Forum outlining the halakhic regulations for nursing and infant care (bathing, diaper care, outings, baby sitters) and play on Shabbat and holidays.

As always, I look forward to your comments and feedback.




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28 Aug 2005 / 23 Av 5765 0