A recurring theme delineated in last week's portion and reiterated in this
week's portion is the inherent responsibility of a father to teach Torah to
his child. Jews mention both verses that contain these declarations during
both, the morning and evening recital of the Shema read at Shacharis and
Ma'ariv. One is in the first portion, the other in the second portion. In
the first portion of Shema, taken from last week's Torah reading, the Torah
tells us, "You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall
speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when
you retire and when you arise." (Deuteronomy 6:7)
In the second portion of the Shema, taken from Parshas Ekev, the Torah
seemingly repeats the theme with a slight variation. "You shall teach them
to your children to discuss them while you sit in your home, while you walk
on the way, when you retire and when you arise" (Deuteronomy 11:19)
Notice the difference. Last week, in Voeschanan, the Torah tells us to
teach our children, then it tells us to speak words of Torah, "while in our
homes and on the road, when we retire and when we rise." However, this
week, it seems that the Torah is spinning a variation on that theme.
It tells us to teach our children to discuss them (Torah) while you sit
in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise.
It does not say, "teach your children to discuss Torah while they sit in
your home, while they walk on the way, when they retire and when they
arise." Are we teaching them to discuss Torah while we go about our lives?
What does their learning Torah have to do with our mundane activities? It
seems that there is a pedagogical lesson to parents in their Torah-teaching
relationships with their children in every aspect of a parent's lives. What
In 1987, Rabbi Yosef Karmel, currently National Director of Peylim/Lev
L'Achim, was Director of Camp Agudah of the Midwest, in South
Haven Michigan. One weekend he invited two prominent guests to the camp;
Rabbi Eliezer Levin, one of America's oldest and most revered rabbis, a
student of the Chofetz Chaim, and the Rav of Detroit for nearly fifty years
and his son, Rabbi Avraham Chaim Levin, dean and founder of the Telshe
Yeshiva of Chicago, a member of the council of Torah Sages, of Agudath
Israel, and one of the outstanding and dynamic leaders of American
Orthodoxy. It was a rare and extraordinary occasion for the campers, and
the atmosphere was spiritually charged. Guests arrived in South Haven to
bask in the glow of two generations of Torah giants.
After the Shabbos services, Rabbi Karmel announced that while the campers
would attend their regularly scheduled learning classes, Rabbi Avraham
Chaim Levin would teach the Daf HaYomi, the daily-apportioned Talmudic
folio, studied concurrently by Jews the world over, to the lay guests who
had come to vacation that weekend together with the camp and the
As everyone dispersed from shul Rabbi Karmel felt a soft tap on his arm.
"Where," the elderly Rav of Detroit asked, "is the Daf Hayomi shiur taking
place?" Rabbi Karmel understood that Rav Levin, ever the rabbinic
gentleman, had somehow figured it to be improper for him not to attend the
class along with all the other guests. In his humility, conjectured Rabbi
Karmel, this scholar - who most certainly could spend the time studying
Torah on his own lofty level, was about to sacrifice an hour sitting at a
class geared lay people, all in the name of good manners."
Reassuringly the camp director told the elderly Rav Levin, "There is no
need for you to attend this shiur. It is intended for the Ba'ale Batim (lay
people) and no one expects the Rav to attend."
The elderly Rav looked at Rabbi Karmel with incredulity and uttered words,
which Rabbi Karmel told me, he will never forget: "What? Do you think I
would miss the chance to hear my son teach a blatt of Gemarah?"
(Rabbi Karmel added afterwards: "At the time of this story Rav Avrohom
Chaim, soon to become a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America,
had already served as a Rosh Yeshiva for more than thirty years. The shiur
he was to say was not a singular event but rather an example of what he has
done so well for many decades. There certainly was no question as to his
ability to deliver a brilliant shiur. Yet, to his father it represented an
opportunity to be amongst the listeners; a tangible nachas that was more
real than all the fame his son had so deservedly accumulated.
We all understand that when our little ones come home from school with
their first "Shabbos sheets" that it is pure nachas to listen to them. It
is a palpable enjoyment for us and provides unparalleled encouragement for
our kids. There is hardly a Jewish father alive who does not make a big
deal about every word repeated from those hallowed stencils. Only a Gadol
like Rav Leizer Levine could still retain that same undiluted nachas from a
son almost sixty years after kvelling over the first recitation of Torah
Tziva Lanu Moshe...)
Perhaps, on a homiletic level, the Torah is telling us not only to teach
children, in a way that they will retain it for themselves, but rather in
away that will unite parents and children forever. Teach them to speak
Torah, in your house, when you go on your way, when you retire and when you
arise! Show them that you cherish their spirituality, whether they are
accomplished professionals or preeminent Torah scholars.
Let the Torah of the latter generation penetrate the ears of the former,
and let them forever harmonize the music that will bind them forever.
Dedicated to Baila bat Rachel, and Aharon ben Leah for a complete recovery-
refuah shelaymah - with Hashem's Help- by Devorah.