In parashat Shoftim, there is a special commandment for the king to write a Torah book for himself, and this is what it says there:
“And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll… And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life.”
Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1839-1762) finds here a hint of a great and important matter, which is the foundation and a cornerstone for every person who wishes to live a true Torah life. He interprets the instruction “and read it all the days of his life” as follows: in the Torah the king will find out how he should behave at every moment of his life. The commandments of the Torah and everything that is told in it – about righteous people on the one hand, and about people who have sinned on the other hand – are a guide for the king and every man of Israel, how to behave in everyday life. The Torah gives us instructions for all days of the year, the days of the week and the days of Shabbat and holidays.
Some think that “and read in it all the days of his life” is a matter intended for old people or retirees, but this is a serious mistake. The days of youth are days of laying the foundations for the building of life, and they are meant to be of great importance. Many cases are known where deviations from the building line, crooked walls and other things that would pose a danger to the stability of the building were discovered in high-rise buildings. Experts who were called to come and find out what caused the deviations and damage, discovered that there was deviation and inaccuracy in the casting of the foundations of these buildings. An inaccuracy of a few inches in the foundation, manifests itself differently than in serious deviations in the upper floors of the building.
Therefore, it is very important to read the Torah book from a young age, in order to be educated in the service of the Creator at the beginning of life and thereby cast the foundations of the righteous and strong. About this, King Solomon said “Train a child according to his way, even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it.” (Proverbs).
It was found, therefore, that one of the primary and fundamental things that every young person in the people of Israel must memorize and accept is obedience to parents and educators. Only in this way will the youth be able to receive the correct direction for walking in the Torah path, only in this way will the proper and solid casting of the foundations for the building be guaranteed. The spiritual foundation that will be built later in life.
It is told about a man who flew from Miami to Israel and during the flight he followed with great admiration the behavior of a young man who during the entire trip was constantly making sure to make his elderly father’s life easier on the long journey. The extreme degree of respect for father and mother, as well as the continuous standing on guard to serve the father, impressed him greatly. When it was time to say goodbye, the man turned to the elderly father and asked him in amazement:
“How have you been so successful in educating your children? From my child I would not have expected, even in a dream, such great treatment as you were privileged to receive from your son. Can you tell me your secret?” With his hearty smile, the old man replied, “There is no secret here, it’s very simple. The attitude of most of the world, to the world in general and humans in particular, is that the world is in constant progress towards a higher culture. You look down on the ancient generations because they believe that each new generation is smarter and more developed than the previous one. And therefore, according to your opinion, he is also better. This is the reason why your younger generation rebels and is not ready to accept insults from the previous generation – because the young think they are more developed and smarter.
On the other hand, with us, our lineage begins with receiving the Torah.
According to the Jewish view, there is a descent of the generations, and the highest aspiration of the Torah observant Jew is: “When will my deeds match the deeds of my ancestors”. Our lofty goal is to get as close as possible to the level of our ancestors at the time of Mount Sinai. Because everything that is closer to Sinai is also more important anyway. The Jewish child who is brought up in this way is able to respect and appreciate the previous generation. This is the difference!
Adequate behavior, according to the Torah, causes everyone to see that those educated in the way of the Torah behave well, and say “Blessed is his father who taught Torah, blessed is his teacher who taught Torah.”
We are about to start the 2022-2023 school year at our Jacob M. Ott Hebrew school, with all the energy to infuse to the next generation our values and traditions, to make sure they will follow our path and the path of our ancestors. Our duty as adults is to promote this opportunity to as many families as possible, and to have them join and enjoy our programs.
Rabbi Refael Cohen