It's a no-brainer that a parent smoking a cigarette can't tell a child not to smoke. A junk-food, sugar addict parent can't tell his/her child to eat healthy. A parent who perpetually breaks traffic laws can't tell his/her son or daughter to drive safely. The youth of this generation - rightfully so - despise hypocrisy.
We read in this week's Torah portion, "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 Torah commands us to teach our children to "talk about them" – them, the words of Torah - constantly. We would think that the command should say, '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,' and so forth. This is the seemingly logical way of teaching our children to live a life of Torah values, by speaking about and internalizing Torah and its teachings from morning to night, in everything they do. 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. Hashem is telling us that the best way to teach our children to be immersed in Torah is when we ourselves are immersed in Torah. The Torah is saying, "while you sit in your home" and the subject of your discussion is Bava Kama and not the New York Times or WhatsApp, then you won't even have to tell your son to pick up a Gemara. When he sees that the Bava Kama is much more important to Daddy than the newspapers, he'll want to learn Bava Kama too.
The same goes for Mom and her daughters. When mom's Friday mornings are devoted to distributing challas that she baked to poor families, her daughter will undoubtedly follow in her footsteps and engage in acts of lovingkindness as well. But, when Mom's prime-time Friday mornings are devoted to the make-up specialists and clothes shopping, then the daughter will conclude from Mom's personal example that nothing in the world is more important than the latest fashion and the eye-shadow with the glittering sparkles, none of which have anything to do with modesty, holiness or serving Hashem. Maybe the daughter will be "Orthodox", but her head certainly won't be in spiritual endeavors and charitable deeds. Because of her material demands, her husband won't be able to devote much time to learning Torah, for he'll be chasing dollars...
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! Blessings for a lovely Shabbat! Yours always, LB