One of the most common prayers Jews recite is found in this week’s Sidra – the Shema. It is said morning and evening. It is on the lips of the dying. It is proclaimed by martyrs and soldiers who fall in battle. In it we read: וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם עַל לְבָבֶךָ, “And these matters which I command you today shall be on your heart.” The next verse reads: וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, “You shall teach them thoroughly to your children.” (Deut. 6, 6-7) This implies education, to teach our children. Why mention education in this context and why the sequence?
Every parent wants their child to grow up knowledgeable and to do the right thing. Our literature tells us, הדברים היוצאים מן הלב נכנסים בלב התלמידים, “that which comes out of the heart goes into the heart of the students.” If we want our children to follow in our footsteps, if we want them to accept our teachings, then what we want must be imbedded in our own hearts.
We cannot expect our children to act in a particular way when we ourselves act differently. Unfortunately, too often parents don’t act ethically and they want their children to act differently. This does not happen. What we have imbedded in our hearts we can transmit to them. What we don’t accept totally in our hearts we cannot expect our children to learn from us.