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Parsha Bo - The Apple Strengthens the Tree

by Rabbi Mordechai Shifman

“So that you may relate in the ears of your son and your son’s son that I made a mockery of Egypt and My signs that I place among them - and you will know that I am Hashem.” (10:2)

The Belzer Rebbe points out that at first glance, the verse appears to be out of order. Should we not know Hashem first, and then educate our children? Why does knowing Hashem follow educating our children?

A number of years ago I had the pleasure of hearing Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Leif speak. He relayed a very poignant story. At his school in Minneapolis there were many parents who did not have the benefit of a Jewish day school education and every attempt was made to include the parents in their child’s spiritual development. One of the ideas implemented was the distribution of little “kriat Shema” cards to the parents at Back to School Night to encourage them to recite the Shema with their child before they went to sleep. This would obviously require the parent to recite the Shema each and every evening as well. Rabbi Leif shared that he received a call from a mother of a five year old girl who told him of the following events: The previous evening, the woman was not feeling well and decided to go to sleep early. Half asleep, she noticed the door open and her little daughter tiptoe quietly into the room. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her daughter rummage through one of her drawers. The young girl then proceeded to the side of her mother’s bed, pulled out the kriat Shema card, placed her little hand over her mother’s eyes and recited the Shema.

The Torah is teaching us an important lesson; a person should not define himself solely by his “yichus” - who his parents and grandparents were, but rather, more importantly, by who his children and grandchildren will be. The strength of a person’s Jewish identity should be viewed in terms of what he is doing to ensure the continuity of his heritage, for he can only feel the strength of his Jewish identity if he sees that there will be continuity of his values. However, if a person sees that his offspring do not have the same convictions as he does, his own values are weakened. By educating our children we ensure that we ourselves will have a relationship with Hashem.

The most important factor in the redemption of Bnei Yisroel from Mitzrayim is for the experience to be conveyed to our future generations, for if they do not feel the redemption, neither will we. Our relationship with Hashem is dependent upon ensuring our Jewish continuity. Therefore, only after “so that you will teach your children” can there be “and you will know Hashem.”

By Rabbi Mordechai Shifman