15 Aug 2019 Parshas V’Eschanan: Teaching Our Children
This week’s parsha, Parshas V’Eschanan, opens with Moshe’s fervent tefillos, asking Hashem that he be allowed into Eretz Yisrael – a request which, ultimately, was denied. Moshe reviews the Aseres Ha’Dibros (The Ten Commandments) with the people, reminding them (and us) of our obligations to Hashem. In addition, we have the Shema Yisrael in this week’s parsha.
In a parsha full of pivotal lessons, topics that form the very foundations of our faith, we have the following pasuk (verse):
רַק הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ וּשְׁמֹר נַפְשְׁךָ מְאֹד, פֶּן-תִּשְׁכַּח אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר-רָאוּ עֵינֶיךָ וּפֶן-יָסוּרוּ מִלְּבָבְךָ, כֹּל, יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ; וְהוֹדַעְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְלִבְנֵי בָנֶיךָ – Only beware for yourself and greatly beware for your soul, lest you forget the things that your eyes have beheld and lest you remove them from your heart, all the days of your life; and make them known to your children and your children’s children (Devarim 4:9).
On these words, R’ Mordechai Kamenetzky, quoting the Leket Amarim, teaches the following: “In its simplest form, the verse seems at best contradictory. ‘Beware that you do not remove the teachings from your heart and make them known to your children.’ How is that possible? If one removes the teaching from his own heart, how can he pass it on to his children?… The pasuk could have stated, ‘Beware that you do not remove the teachings from your heart. Instead, you shall make them known to your children.’
“Is there a way that one may actually ‘remove the teachings from their heart and still make them known to their children’?”
He answers with a humorous, albeit sad, parable.
Junior came home from camp one afternoon without a towel. “Where’s your towel?” asked his mom. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “I couldn’t find it after swimming. Maybe someone took it.” His mother was irate. “Who could have taken your towel? It was a great towel! Don’t we teach our kids not to take things that belong to others?”
In frustration and anger, the mother called the camp director. “Hello. There is a young thief in your camp!” “How so?” asked the camp director. “My son had his towel stolen from your camp! He took it to camp today, and now it’s gone!” “Calm down,” said the voice on the line. “I am sure that no one stole it. Please describe the towel to me.” “I sure can, and sure will!” replied the angry woman. “It was big and white. You could not miss it. It had the words Holiday Inn emblazoned on it!”
R’ Kamenetzky writes, “The Leket Amarim interprets the verse in its purest and most simplistic form. It is a reference to one who will forget the teachings of the Torah, but will hypocritically try to impart them to his children.
“Often, when it comes to our actions, we forget the principles that we were taught, but we remember them when chiding our children and pontificating… Thus, the Torah warns us not to forget its principles for ourselves, yet to teach them to our children. Consistency is the measure of the moment – every moment. For yourself. For your children. For eternity” (Parsha Parables, p.601-603).
It is a lesson and message we would do well to internalize. Do we act one way and speak another? Do we teach our children with words, and teach a different way in our actions? Chazal teach – אמר אביי אין כדאמרי אינשי שותא דינוקא בשוקא או דאבוה או דאימיה, Abaye said, As people say: the utterances of a child in the marketplace (i.e.: in public) (express the views of) either his father or his mother (Sukkah 56b).
It is the way of the world that the child speaks and acts the way the parents do. It’s not enough to speak Torah, mitzvos and Halacha. We must act and live with Torah, mitzvos and Halacha.
It behooves us to ask ourselves what example we set for our children, our grandchildren, and all those with whom we interact. For the reality is that actions always speak louder than words.
“R’ Yisroel Grossberg is the principal of Bnot Chaya Academy, the alternative Brooklyn High School for girls for whom there is no alternative. He explains that when a child is taught to go through the motions of an Orthodox life that’s devoid of true ruchniyus (spiritual meaning), he or she may end up thinking there’s nothing more to Yiddishkeit than the hollow facsimile he/she is familiar with.
“R’ Grossberg explains: A girl will say ‘I hate Shabbos.’ So I’ll say, ‘Okay describe Shabbos at home.’ Best case scenario, she’ll describe a situation where her father and brothers sit and say divrei Torah to each other while the girls serve the meal. Worst case, the father comes home from Shul drunk. So I tell her, ‘You don’t hate Shabbos, you hate dysfunctional families. G-d is just an easy target because He can’t talk back.’ And I try to get her exposed to a functional Shabbos experience.
“Just last week, a girl came to me and said she hates tefillah. It turns out that her mother used to lie in bed reading romance novels while screaming at her daughter, “Go daven, go daven!” I said, “It’s not tefillah you hate” (Mishpacha Magazine, Issue 705, 4.11.18, p.40,44).
וְהָי֞וּ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּךָ֛ הַיּ֖וֹם עַל־לְבָבֶֽךָ – And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart (Devarim 6:6). Comments Rashi: The mitzvos should not be in your eyes as an old edict to which one does not attach importance, rather like new ones, towards which everyone runs (to fulfill).
Let us see the mitzvos as new each day, let us be excited to fulfill them, let us live and practice with intent and meaning, so that the Torah will be engraved upon our hearts, as well as upon the hearts of our children.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,