Parashas Toldos

This week’s parashah begins as follows (Bereishis 25:19): “These are the generations of Yitzchak son of Avraham – Avraham fathered Yitzchak.” The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 63:1) links this statement with the following verses:
1. Mishlei 23:24: “The father of a righteous man shall surely jubilate, and one who fathers a wise man shall rejoice in him.”
2. Mishlei 23:15: “My child, if your heart becomes wise, my heart, too, shall rejoice.”
3. Mishlei 17:6: “The crown of elders is their offspring [literally, grandchildren], and the glory of children is their fathers.”
The Maggid, in turn, links the Midrash with the following passage (Tehillim 112:1-4):
Fortunate is the man who fears Hashem, who greatly desires His commandments. Mighty in the land shall be his offspring, a generation of upright ones who shall be blessed.
The Maggid explains the message as follows. If a person harbors negative tendencies and performs mitzvos only out of compulsion, he will pass on negative tendencies to his children. But if he serves Hashem gladly, he will pass on good values to his children, and they will become righteous. Hence, when a person fathers a righteous son, he rejoices not only over his son’s righteousness in its own right, but also over the fact that his son’s conduct reflects positively on him.
The Maggid goes on to note a link with a Gemara in Nedarim 81a that discusses why certain Torah scholars do not father Torah scholars. The Gemara gives a number of answers. One of them is because they do not recite a blessing before learning Torah. The Maggid explains that a person who does not recite a blessing over the Torah is showing that he is not happy with the Torah. He follows the Torah because he has to, but he would rather that the Torah not have been given in the first place. Hence he does not pass on Torah values to his children. In order to have children who are Torah scholars, one must be glad to have Torah.
This interpretation matches Rav Moshe Feinstein’s explanation of why the children of many observant American immigrants gave up Jewish observance. Rav Moshe noted that such immigrants, while they observed the Torah, conveyed the message that it is a burden, saying: “Schver tzu zain a Yid – It’s tough to be a Jew.” Hence they did not pass Torah commitment on to their children.
If we want to pass Torah values on to our children, we must show that we are happy with the Torah, by performing mitzvos with joy and not with reluctance. This is a critical element in raising children in the Torah path.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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