If you visit the typical pre-school classroom, you will notice that the walls are decorated with various posters and pictures. Every poster, as well as every object in the room, is labeled: “My Library.” “My Chair.” “The Garden.” All this, despite the fact that the children do not know how to read.
The theory behind it is that children who are constantly exposed to written words will eventually learn to associate the symbol with the object. They’ll see a desk, and associate it with the word “DESK.” The research is still unclear how much of an effect this method has on developing readers. Still, preschool teachers persist in labeling objects. It can’t possibly hurt, and it very well may help.
This popular method of instruction has a spiritual parallel. Many years before the pre-school classroom was invented, Jewish mothers had a practice to hang verses of Torah at their infant’s eye level. The pure mind of the child absorbs the holiness of these verses, and it becomes a basis for all the spirituality and good character that we later instill in them.
Our sages say that a fetus in its mother’s womb studies the entire Torah. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassisim, adds that even after a child is born, the spiritual imprint of those teachings remain in his or her mind. For this reason, children are able to grasp spiritual concepts that are far beyond their intellectual maturity.
It follows, then, that periodically “refreshing” the child’s mind through exposing them to these holy verses prevent the impression from fading.
This is true not only of the written word, but all sensory experiences. Music, in particular, is a potent way of educating and molding a child’s very pliable mind. From time immemorial, Jewish mothers rocked their infants to sleep with melodies extolling the sweetness of Torah: “Torah is the best merchandise.”
An example of the profound influence of early childhood memories can be found in the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “From the day I went to cheder, and even before that, I started to imagine a vision of the future Redemption... a Redemption that would make us understand the reason for all the pain and suffering of exile.”
This vision, which the Rebbe had been dreaming of since early childhood, had a profound impact not only on the life of the future Jewish leader, but on the course of Jewish history. As we know, the Rebbe transformed Jewish life in the last century and set in motion a process that will lead to the final Redemption, immediately.