The Jewish people are the only people in history to predicate their survival on education. The most sacred duty of parents is to teach their children. Judaism is a religion whose heroes are teachers and whose passion is study. The Egyptians built pyramids. The Romans built the Coliseum. Jews built schools. That is why we alone, of all the civilizations of the ancient world, are still alive and strong, still continuing our ancestors’ vocation, our heritage intact and undiminished. In this parshah, Moshe speaks of the duty of parents to educate their children. We should encourage our children to ask questions, so that the transmission of the Jewish heritage would be not a matter of rote learning but of active dialogue between parents and children.
Once, while traveling on behalf of Yeshivas Torah Ohr, the rosh yeshivah, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l was lodging at the home of a talmid from many years previously, who lived in Baltimore, Maryland. The talmid was extremely attentive to the rosh yeshivah’s every need and made him feel as comfortable as he possibly could.
At the time, a former associate of this talmid, a man who came late to the lifestyle of a religious Jew, but who had begun to make serious headway in his observance of Torah and mitzvos, was visiting Baltimore from his hometown in Los Angeles, together with his wife and two children. They were staying nearby and called to see if they could get together. The talmid from Baltimore told him that he was presently hosting one of the leading rabbis in all of Israel, and he was welcome to come over to meet the Torah giant. “Bring your wife and children, as well,” he was told, so that they all can receive blessings from the rabbi. And why not? The home was constantly filled with people – men, women, and children – coming in and out all day long, eager to receive a blessing from Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg.
When the family arrived, the host immediately escorted them into a side room, which led into the dining room where Rav Scheinberg was sitting. Awed by the sight of the elderly rabbi, the couple stood back and watched in reverence as he greeted each visitor with a smile and tremendous warmth. This young family had never seen such a holy looking man, and they truly could not take their eyes off of him. Suddenly, their seven-year-old son, Craig, broke free of his parents, ran right up to the venerated sage, and exclaimed, “Hey, they promised me that there was going to be only one rabbi here, and there are so many of them!” Horrified, Craig’s parents quickly ran to get their son. They admonished him quietly for his impatience, and told him that he must be extremely respectful in front of the rabbi. Craig appeared to be duly chastened.
But it was not long before the little troublemaker was up to a new antic. At a lull between visitors, young Craig ran up to Rav Scheinberg once more, and without the slightest hint of pretension, he introduced himself.
“Hi! My name’s Craig,” he said, congenially. “What’s your name?
Craig’s parents gasped in embarrassment. Mortified at their child’s insolence, they were prepared to grab him away once more, when the elderly rosh yeshivah indicated that he was not at all upset with the boy’s behavior. Just to prove his point, he took the child’s hand and pulled the young man closer to him to answer his question.
“My name is Chaim Pinchas,” he said softly. “How are you?” And just like that, the elderly tzadik conducted a down-to-earth conversation with a young boy from a non-religious background, as if the two of them were longtime friends.
The conversation lasted for a few minutes and Craig returned to his family with a huge smile plastered on his face. After his conversation with their son, the rosh yeshivah turned to the parents and taught them an important lesson in parenting. “There is no such thing as a bad question. If your child asks a question, then feel blessed that he is asking you questions. That is a sign of a healthy child, who has a healthy relationship with his parents. He is looking to grow, and that is a tremendous blessing. The moment that he stops asking questions, that is when you know that you are in trouble, as he now feels a disconnect with the people he should trust most.”