Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Va’etchanan

How can we successfully pass on our Judaism through to the generations to come?

In Parashat Ve’etchanan, the Torah presents us with the first paragraph of the Shema. In it we have the crucially important mitzvah ‘ושננתם לבניך – teach these words of Torah to your children’. I would have expected the Torah to tell us how to educate our children immediately afterwards. Instead, having discussed our children it moves on to discuss us. After ‘ושננתם לבניך – educate your children, It says ודברת בם – you must speak words of Torah, בשבתך בביתך – when you’re at home, ובלכתך בדרך – and while you’re on your way, בשכבך – In the evening time, ובקומך – and in the morning time.

So the Torah wants us to know that the finest way for us to raise our children to be proud Jews is through personal example. ‘ושננתם לבניך’ how best can we educate them? It is through ודברת בם. If we speak words of Torah every day, in addition to talking about sport, the weather, politics and so on, let’s speak Torah. Let’s express our pride in our tradition, let’s give our family the thrill of recitation of brachot and performance of mitzvot. And this should not only be בשבתך בביתך – when we are at home it should also be ובלכתך בדרך – while we’re in the workplace, while we’re abroad, while we’re on vacation. Our Judaism is equally important to us outside of our home as it is within our homes.

ובשכבך ובקומך- at all times of day, evening and morning and if we are men, we must put on Tefilin ‘ לאות על ידך…לטטפת ביןעיניך’ – upon our arms and between our eyes. Let our children see us observing these mitzvot with pride and davening to Hashem with devotion.

‘על מזזות ביתך- let them see the ‘mezuzot on the doorpost of our homes’ so that they will be fully immersed within a happy, joyous and meaningful Jewish way of life.

Now, of course, we perform the mitzvah of ‘ושננתם לבניך’ through The formal education of our children and sometimes we delegate that task to others, such as when we send our children to school. But let us never forget that when it comes to the success or failure of our tradition, and the passing on of our Jewish heritage through to the generations to come, Judaism is not taught. It is caught.

Shabbat Shalom