The Mitzvah of Teaching the Mitzvot

Before his death, Moses wrote the Torah and gave it to the elders who were going to lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.  He commanded them to read the Torah to the public, on a regular basis, explaining that every man, woman, child and live-in resident must know the commandments in order to live by them.  And then, in a special repetition, Moses said: "And their children, who have not known (the Torah), will hear and learn" (see Deuteronomy 31:9-13).  Obviously, in his vision of the future, Moses realized the societal significance of teaching right and wrong, morals and ethics to the children.

When we teach the mitzvot to our own children, whether teaching in person or through our appointed delegates (the rabbi, religious school teachers, Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutors, etc.), we perform the mitzvah "You shall teach them diligently to your children", which we recite in every service as ve’Shinantam le’Vaneikha ve’Dibarta Bam (Deuteronomy 6:7).  This is our responsibility and commitment as parents.  However, through public Torah reading, Moses extended this mitzvah to a broader mitzvah to teach the children of our community, not only our own.  In America today, we can all appreciate the benefits of moral and educated children to better and safer communities.

Every year, after the festivals of Sukkot and Simhat Torah, Jews all over the world, go back to the beginning -- the Book of Genesis -- to continue the long tradition of weekly Torah portion study and public reading.  Like our ancestors of the past and like Jewish generations to come, the People of The Book shall improve the world by teaching and explaining its mitzvot to our children.  We thus follow a binding tradition of study and we share together the mitzvah of teaching the mitzvot.

-- Judah Ari-Gur

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