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May 29, 2015

Teaching by example

by Rabbi Dovid Felt

A theme that has been mentioned here a number of time is the importance of teaching by example. The reality is, it can not be stressed enough. The Torah dedicates an entire Sefer to teach us Maaseh Avos Siman La’Bonim. Sefer Beraishis is read yearly and over the course of a number of weeks – to make the point of how significant this message is and how vital it is that this message gets repeated.

In this weeks Haftorah this message gets reiterated albeit via an inference. This week’s Parsha talks about the laws of a Nazir. Included in those Halachos is the prohibition for a Nazir to eat grapes or drink any of its derivatives including wine. The Haftorah echoing these Halachos relates the story of Shimshon Ha’Gibor. In the beginning of chapter thirteen, the Navi tells us how the Angel tells Shimshon’s mother that she will give birth to a child who would be a Nazir. The Angel also instructs her to abstain from drinking wine.

Why was it so critical for Shimshon’s parents to refrain from drinking wine? In addition, the language of the Possuk implies that these instructions were to be fulfilled immediately, why? Shimshon was merely a thought at this point. What impact will his mother’s drinking have on her yet unconcieved child?

The lesson is very clear, as parents we are the primary influence on our children. How we live, even to the extent of what we eat, will have a tremendous impression on the development of our child. If we want our child to grow with a particular value, certainly one that we have not yet adopted we need to make the change in ourselves long before we become their example. In fact, it needs to become second nature to us for it to be transferred to our children.

Felt tips

Reflecting on the theme of teaching by example I was struck by an observation that bears repeating. Every morning at school we provide an opportunity for the students to Daven together, to Daven with a Minyan and to Daven in the place that they learn. During which, I have the opportunity to observe the way different students Daven. I see students who don’t talk during Davening, who Daven with the appropriate Kavana, and ones who are able to focus on the Davening and not get distracted.

It is clear to me that they learned these traits from their father. As it is Davening can be a challenge. Davening is the service of the heart – it takes focus and commitment. This makes it especially difficult for teenagers. For a teenager it is a struggle to Daven considering the numerous internal as well as external distractions. When a student does Daven properly I can say with certainty that they have learned how to, by example, from their father – Kudos to you.

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