When explaining the Mitzvah of Hakhel, Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael, “Assemble the people – the men the women and the small children” (31:12). Rabi Elazar ben Azaria (Masechet Sofrim 18:6, quoted by Rashi) is puzzled by this statement. He understands why the men and women must come to Hakhel; however, he is baffled as to why the Torah commands that the children should join their parent and come too. He explains that the children are also commanded to come “to give reward to those who bring them,” i.e. their parents. However, Rabi Elazar ben Azariah’s question is seemingly unnecessary and awkward. It would seem to make more sense for Rabi Elazar to ask a different and more obvious question: why does the Torah feel it necessary to make it a commandment for the children to go? Parents are obviously not going to leave their children home, and must bring them anyway. Why, then, is there a specific mandate for the attendance of children?
The question is answered by the Gemara in Kiddushin (31a), which states that a Mitzvah that one is commanded to do is greater than one that is done voluntarily. The Torah went out of its way to add bringing children, something that people would have done anyway, to the Mitzvah of Hakhel. This shows us the kindness of Hashem and the opportunities He gives us to perform Mitzvot. He gives us as many ways as possible, even easy ones, to earn merit. Thus, Rabi Elazar stated that the children are commanded to come “to give reward to those who bring them.” It is important to seek out all sorts of opportunities for Mitzvot and Chesed in our communities. We must make time for them on a regular basis, and do justice to the opportunities that we have been so abundantly given.