I had the fortune during Yeshiva break to visit my two children who are studying in Israel, Netanel in Yeshivat Shaalvim and Elisheva in Migdal Oz. When I first arrived to see my son in Yeshivat Shaalvim after leaving the airport, I arrived just as the Yeshiva was davening maariv and saying Kriat Shema. And that was very fitting. Because my visit with my two children was a visit of Kriat Shema.
According to the gemara, both Moshe Rabbenu and Yaakov Avinu’s family introduced the Kriat Shema. Moshe Rabbenu said Kriat Shema as a challenge to the Bnei Yisrael as they were on the verge of entering the Promised Land – “Hear, Bnei Yisrael, Hashem is our God. Hashem is one!” This was a Shema of expectation. As we were about to become a nation with a Jewish homeland, Moshe challenged us to devote our lives to this fundamental value of Judaism, of accepting God’s kingship over us. In contrast, the Shema of Yaakov’s family was said in a totally different context. Even though he tried to raise his children to follow the right path, Yaakov suspected that some of his children were not fully committed to his principles and values. Therefore, his children told him, “Shema Yisrael” – listen, father, listen Yisrael, “Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad” – we all believe that Hashem is our true God and there is nothing other than Him. Yaakov was so comforted by his children’s Shema declaration that he responded, “Baruch Shem Kvod Malchut l’olam va’ed” – may the Name of God’s glorious kingdom be blessed forever.
As parents, we have different types of goals for our children. We have short term goals, perhaps getting them to clean their room or complete their homework. We have long term goals, perhaps getting our children to read a book for 30 minutes every night or to do their chores on a consistent basis. But we also have lifetime goals for our children. Lifetime goals are those that truly will set the tone for who our children will be. A lifetime goal might be to raise your child to become respectful and responsible, to have a positive attitude, to feel that he or she is loved, or to have good self-esteem. As a Jewish parent, a lifetime goal is the Shema of expectation – a lifetime goal is to impart to our children what Moshe Rabbenu imparted to the Bnei Yisrael, that we must commit our lives to God and His Torah.
It can seem so easy to give up and outsource our parental responsibilities to educate our children to the Yeshiva day schools that they attend. After all, we pay a lot of tuition dollars in the hopes that the Yeshiva day schools that our children attend will impart these Torah values to them. But it is so critical that we as parents keep plugging away with that message of Shema, by both teaching and modeling for our children the Torah values that we want them to make their own. Because as difficult as it may be, as parents we have tremendous influence. And maybe, just maybe, if we keep plugging away with the Shema of expectation, with the help of Hashem, at some point in time, we will merit to hear the Shema of destination from our children, as Yaakov Avinu heard from his.
I was so fortunate to spend my vacation this year hearing the Shema of destination – studying the sugyot of rov and hazakah and edut isha with my kids in both Shaalvim and Migdal Oz. It was an experience for which I am so grateful, and one I will never forget.