July 18, 2022 by Lazer Brody
“You shall teach them to your children to talk about them, while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you lie down and when you arise.” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
The hypocritical parent commands his or her child, “Don’t do as I do; do as I say!” That parent doesn’t know the ABC’s of educating children.
The Torah commands us to teach our children to “talk about them” – them, the ethics of Torah – constantly. Would it not ne more logical if the Torah commanded, ‘you shall teach them to your children to talk about them, while they sit in your home, while they walk on the way, when they lie down’? Yet, surprisingly, the Torah instructs the parent to teach them to discuss Torah while he or she sits in the home, walks on the way, and the like. What’s the message that the Torah is conveying here?
The Torah is telling the parent that education is not preaching – it’s personal example. A child’s innate sense of justice cannot stand hypocrisy and inconsistency. A parent who preaches one thing yet practices otherwise is guaranteed to obtain the opposite results.
In simple English, if you live it, you can give it: if you don’t live it, you can’t give it. Therefore, before a parent educates his child, he must educate himself.
The principle of “live it to give it” is evident in the above-cited passage. The Almighty is telling us that the best way to teach our children to be ethical and upright human beings is when we ourselves are ethical and upright human beings. If Dad cuts corners in business integrity, he has no right to scold his son for not telling the truth. On the other hand, when mom’s Friday mornings are devoted to baking challahs for poor families, her daughter will undoubtedly follow in her footsteps and engage in acts of charity and lovingkindness as well.
Children have highest regard for parents, their chief role-models. As our sages teach, the deeds of parents are stepping stones for the children. If you live it, you can give it!