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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Yonah Burr

Emor: Parenting by Example

Updated: May 5, 2023

אמר אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם

Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you should speak to them...

What an odd, redundant sentence! "Speak to the Kohanim -- and you should speak to them"?!

Our Sages explain that the Torah is really issuing two commandments. First, Moshe is to teach the Kohanim about the many additional mitzvos that apply to them due to their special status. He is then commanded to instruct them to ensure that their children keep these rules as well.

Thus, the first statement, "Speak to the sons of Aharon", is to the adults, while the second, "and you should speak to them" refers to the children. Problem solved.

Or is it?

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l asked a question: Both statements are together in the same sentence. How are we to understand these words of Chazal, that half of it is directed toward the children?

Rav Moshe, in an oft-repeated theme, explained that this responsibility of the adults towards the children is, essentially, the mitzvah of Chinuch! We are all responsible to transmit the Mesorah, including our obligation to learn and perform Mitzvos, to the next generation.

This cannot be accomplished merely by "preaching". When children hear the message of "do as I say, not as I do!", they invariably see through it and would never buy into it. To influence and impart, we need to model the behavior, values, and priorities that we want our children to learn. If our children see their parents performing mitzvos and acts of chessed, they will, with Siyatta D'shmaya, want to emulate this as well.

Moreover, he continues, even if our children see us performing the mitzvos, if they perceive that we find it hard, or challenging, this can also turn them off. Even if they are impressed with our level of self-sacrifice, they might say kudos to my parents, but it is too hard for me.

Therefore, our attitude towards mitzvos is almost more important than what we do! We must impart the message that we love the Torah and the Mitzvos, and that it is a privilege, not a burden.

This, cocludes Rav Moshe, is the double expression. "Speak to the Kohanim", to perform the mitzvos, and "speak to them again" about their attitude towards their performance, and through this it will send a message to the children.

During these trying times, along with everything else, we are being given an opportunity to model for our children and our families how one deals with challenges and hardships. The way we respond and act can give our children the tools for life they need to face life’s many twists and turns.

May we all be comforted, healed, and granted deliverance from this and every hardship, and merit to see the true redemption speedily in our day.

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