Raising children to become good and moral adults is a challenging task. The Torah instructs us to teach our children the Divine commandments, most famously in Deut. 6:7: “You shall thoroughly teach them to your children and speak at them.” This verse seems to have a redundancy, because teaching includes speaking. Also, it is odd that the verse suggests that speaking occurs after teaching.


To gain an insight into the logic behind this verse, let us study a Biblical example of education as described in Exodus chapters 12 and 13. The Israelites are instructed about the detailed preparations for Passover, and the Torah then says (Ex. 12:26-27): “And when your children will say to you: ‘what is this worship for you?’ you shall say …”. Later again the Torah repeats (Ex. 13:14): “And when your son will ask you: ‘what is this?’ you shall say to him …”.


We see that before any conversation with the children, the family is instructed to diligently prepare. Indeed, the teaching starts with the children watching the activities at home. They observe what the adults of the family practice and learn from it. Children are often reluctant to listen to their parents “preaching” to them, but they are curious and will try to understand the reasons for the activities that surround them at home. Then, when they are interested and willing to listen, it is the best time to speak to them.


When the Torah instructs us to teach laws of moral life to our children, it also tells us to live our lives accordingly. We must show a good example to our children, and instill in them good habits. The essence of thorough teaching is good example, not talk. Then, we can speak not only to them but also at them, from a position of confidence and trust.


Judah Ari-Gur


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