Friday, July 26, 2013

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Words That Pierce

via Rabbi Lipskier of The Beis Medrash…

A chassid sought a teacher for his children but he refused to hire the recommended teacher because he was not a good example of a truly pious man-he was not a real chassid.

When the melamed (teacher) heard what the chassid had said about him, he confronted him. "Indeed, I am not a pious person, but I am a good teacher. And believe me, I want my students to become true chassidim."

"Therein lies the problem," the father told him. "My children will learn from you and grow up to be like you. They won't be pious themselves, but they'll want others to be."

A Good Example

The Rebbe of Kotzk was approached by a man who desired blessings for his children. "Please, Rebbe, bless my children to study Torah and become G-d fearing Jews."

"Your children will follow your example," answered the Rebbe. "If you study Torah, so will they. If you don't, they also won't. Instead, they'll want their children to study Torah, just like you." 

The Kotzker Rebbe added that the lesson appears in parshat v’eschanan:

"Beware and watch yourself very well, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw, and lest these things depart from your heart, all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children and to your children's children."[1]

If you instruct your children to follow the Torah, but don't follow it yourself, i.e. "you forget the things," ultimately they too will tell their children to keep Torah but they won't keep it themselves.

And You Shall Teach Them

We also read the Shema in this parshah. The Alshich asks why the Torah uses the word "veshinantam" instead of the more common "velimadetem," when instructing us to teach our children Torah. Both words mean "And you shall teach them."

The root of the word "veshinantam" is shinnun, which means sharp. The Torah is telling us to make sure the Torah and morals we teach our children are sharp enough to penetrate their hearts. How can we accomplish that? Only by teaching from the heart. If we're just paying lip service, forget it. But if our teaching is based on genuine commitment to Torah values and halacha (Jewish law), our lessons will go further than their ears-they'll penetrate the heart.

Let's begin with securing Torah "al levovecha," on our own hearts, so that we will be successful in the "vishinantam," when we teach it to our children.

May we all be good living examples for our children, and merit that they learn from our good example, and follow in the beautiful path of the Torah.

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