By Rabbi Israel Rubin

Grownups say the darndest things... about children.

"Childish," "a terror," "mischievous," "Children should be seen and not heard," "What can you expect from a child?"-- are typical comments about children.

But Judaism thinks the world of children. The same Talmud that respects age also says: "The world exists only in the merit of children." "The world stands on the pure breath of innocent children learning Torah." And "The Torah study of children supersedes the building of the Holy Temple." In fact, we would have no Torah and no Shavuot holiday were it not for the children.Gallery: Precious Moments

The Midrash relates that prior to giving the Children of Israel the Torah, G‑d demanded that the Jews name a guarantor. G‑d wanted assurance that the Torah would not be short-lived, but would be transmitted from generation to generation.

Israel's first choice was our forefathers. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were great men, but could not qualify as guarantors. Yichus (glorious ancestry) does not ensure that Judaism will live on in its descendants.

The Jewish people then offered the Prophets as guarantors. But that was not an acceptable choice either, Ezekiel and Isaiah were great and inspired visionaries, but preaching alone cannot assure the continuity of Jewish life.

Finally, the Jewish people hit on the right thing. We offered our little children as guarantors to transmit the Torah, to keep Judaism alive from generation to generation. Only with this choice did G‑d consent and agree to give us the Torah.

This is where the beautiful custom of bringing children to shul on the first day of Shavuot originates. Because of their role and importance, all children, even infants, should be present as the Ten Commandments are read from the Torah scroll.

Children and Torah. Where would we be without them?

Psychologists have discovered what Torah has known along: a person learns more in infancy and childhood than he will for the rest of his life. At a tender age our attitudes and personality traits are shaped for adulthood. That is why educating our young children is our highest priority for survival. Rabbis, shul presidents, and organizations are all important, but only our children can ensure our continuity — a Jewish tomorrow. They are our key to the future.

From the cradle, every Jewish child should be introduced to the beauty of Jewish life. It is crucial that parents take the first opportunity to involve children in the joy of a mitzva — putting a penny in a charity box, lighting a Shabbat candle, and even decorating the crib and playroom in a Jewish way.

A rich selection of Jewish books, toys, games, computer software and videos that will hold a child's interest are available today. These creative tools make Judaism fun in the minds and hearts of our children.

Let's remember to bring our children to shul on the first day of Shavuot, so we can be at their side when the Ten Commandments are read. And may we all take pride in our children.