Monkey See, Monkey Do
Rabbi Yonah Burr
אמר אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם
Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you should speak to them...
Our Sages explain the seemingly superfluous phrase, ‘and you should speak to them’ as an additional commandment: Moshe is first instructed to teach the Kohanim all the extra mitzvos they have due to their special status. He is then commanded to instruct them to ensure that the children keep these rules as well. Thus, the first statement ‘speak to the sons of Aharon’ is a reference to the adults, and the second statement, ‘and you should speak to them’ is a reference to the children.
One might ask: Both statements are being directed towards the same adults. Where do we see a hint that it includes a responsibility towards the children?
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, in an often repeated theme, explains: this responsibility that the adults have towards the children is essentially the mitzva of chinuch. We are all responsible to transmit the mesorah, the obligations to learn and perform mitzvos, on to the next generation.
This cannot be accomplished merely by ‘preaching’. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. The children will see through it and never buy into it. In order to influence and impart, we need to model the behavior and values and priorities that we want our children to learn. If our children see their parents performing mitzvos and acts of chessed, hopefully they will want to emulate this as well.
Moreover, explains Rav Moshe, even if our children see us performing mitzvos, if they perceive that we find it hard, or challenging, this might also be a ‘put 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 and not a burden.
This then, is the double expression. Speak to the Kohanim, to perform the mitzvos, and speak to them again, about the 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.