In the Parsha of Krias Shema, it is written: “V’limaditem oisam es bneichem” - “You should teach your children (Torah).” The word “oisam” is written “chaser” - missing the letter vav (אַתֶּם). Rav Moshe Feinsten zt”l explains that this teaches us a fundamental rule in Chinuch Habanim. The way to teach a child is when a child sees his parents doing what is correct. The posuk is saying, “Atem” - you - the parents - should teach them by you, yourself, learning Torah. If you will learn Torah, your son will learn Torah. Similarly, if you will daven properly and not speak in the middle of Tefillah, then your son will daven properly and not speak in the middle of Tefillah. In other words, what is important to you, the parents, will be important to your children.
In Parshas Vayera, we read about the three malachim who came to visit Avraham Avinu. Avraham told a shaliach, a messenger, to bring water for his guests so they may wash their feet. The Gemara in Bava Metzia 86b derives from here an important lesson: “Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav: Everything which Avraham personally did for the Ministering Angels, the Holy One, blessed be He, did in person for his sons; and whatever Avraham did through a messenger, the Holy One, blessed be He, did for his sons through a messenger.” Our Sages are teaching us that it was wrong of Avraham to ask a shaliach to bring the water; he should have gotten up and done it himself!
This is difficult to understand, asks Rav Moshe. How was Avraham wrong? Who was the shaliach that Avraham asked to fetch the water? It was his son Yishmael! Avraham wished to be mechanech his son in the mitzvah of Hachnossas Orchim! How can this be considered wrong?
Rav Moshe answers that indeed, if Avraham’s intention was to be mechanech his son, then the best way to do that was by having his son watch him do the mitzvah. If Yishmael would have observed how Avraham, who was in pain on the third day after his Bris Milah, jumped up and ran to bring water for his guests, he would have learned the best way to do the mitzvah. Thus, Avraham was “wrong” for not showing Yishmael how to do it best.
Rav Elchanan Wasserman zt”l Hy”d, the Rosh Yeshivah of Ohel Torah Baranovitz, would tell over a story that he personally experienced. He was once on a fundraising trip on behalf of his yeshivah. He traveled to Russia to meet with a wealthy philanthropist, Mr. Beinish Denis, hoping to obtain a large donation. It was a cold, wintry day; a heavy snow had just fallen, and the unpaved streets were slushy with snow and mud. Rav Elchanan’s boots and clothing were dirty; there was no way that he could enter the home of Mr. Denis with the grime on his shoes. He went to the back door which opened up to the kitchen, rather than soil the carpet and sofa in the main living room.
Mr. Denis’ daughters came to the side door to greet him, and immediately went to inform their father that the Rosh Yeshivah of Baranovitz was in the kitchen. Rav Elchanan refused to walk any further into the house with his soiled shoes. When Mr. Denis came to the kitchen, he asked Rav Elchanan why he had come through the back door. Rav Elchanan explained that his boots were filthy, and he didn’t want to dirty the house.
Mr. Denis insisted that the Rosh Yeshivah come into the living room. “Rebbe,” he said, “you are ruining my daughters! I have taught them that Torah is more important than anything else - especially money. My whole life I have taught them that the most important things in the world are Torah and Talmidei Chachamim! Please go out and enter once again through the front door. I want my daughters to see the carpet and the sofa become dirty. Let them learn the importance of honoring a Talmid Chacham!”
Later, Mr. Denis would proudly point to the stain on his sofa, saying it is a “special” stain since it came from Rav Elchanan!
Mr. Dennis was privileged to be the father-in-law of two Gedolei Yisrael of the previous generation: Horav Avraham Yitzchak Bloch, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe, Lithuania; and his brother, Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zt”l, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe, in America.
After the Bolshevik Revolution, when the Communists took control of the country, Mr. Denis’ money was confiscated and he became a poor man. Rather than be disheartened, he comforted himself, saying that he still had two precious diamonds, his two sons-in-law. These were HIS jewels which no one could take away from him.
I would like to share one more story, something contemporary, which exemplifies what true chinuch is all about. A close friend of mine needed to buy a cell phone for one of his children. With all the fancy phones out there today, and the many things they can do to negatively impact youth, this decision was a lot harder than it sounds. He didn’t want his child texting all day, being busy with narishkeit! What did he do? The first thing he did was buy himself a basic phone that did not have texting. He used it and showed his child that he was using such a phone. Then, he went out and bought his child the same phone without texting. The child was happy to have a phone and recognized that if it’s good enough for my father, it’s good enough for me!
This is the chinuch of “oisam” without the vav. YOU must teach by example. When YOU do what is right, your children will automatically want to do what is right because they see YOU doing it!
This is what chinuch is all about. May we all be zoche to be mechanech our children in the correct path of Torah and mitzvos, and may we all see tremendous Yiddish nachas.
By Rabbi Yehudah Rydell
Rabbi Yehudah Rydel is a longtime Rebbe in Yeshivah Spring Valley. He is beloved by students and staff alike. He has educated hundreds of talmidim.