June 16, 2024
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June 16, 2024
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In this week’s parsha, Am Yisrael receive the Ten Commandments from God engraved on the two Luchot Habrit, the Stone Tablets.

Many commentaries note a pattern that emerges within the commandments, a natural split between the tablets. The first five commandments, listed on the first tablet, are mitzvot bein adam laMakom, laws between man and God, whereas the latter five commandments, listed on the second tablet, are mitzvot bein adam lachaveiro, laws between man and his fellow man. This division, they suggest, points to the balance that we must develop in our lives—focusing both on our relationship with God and with those around us.

Other commentaries argue, however, that this analysis does not compute. While the first four commandments are, in fact, commandments between man and God, the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” breaks the pattern. This commandment apparently is a mitzvah bein adam lachaveiro. Why, then, is it found in the first tablet, which contains mitzvot bein adam laMakom?

The commentaries answer by quoting the Gemara Kiddushin 30b, which notes three partners in the creation of man: God, mother and father. Therefore, the Gemara concludes, when one honors his parents it’s as if Hashem was also present and therefore honored as well. We can now understand why honoring one’s parents is included in the list of bein adam laMakom. Due to the unique partnership between God and parents, kibbud av va’eim contains elements of both bein adam lachaveiro and bein adam laMakom. In fact, perhaps this mitzvah is uniquely situated specifically as the fifth of the Ten Commandments in order to represent the transition between mitzvot bein adam laMakom to mitzvot bein adam lachaveiro.

This explanation highlights the fundamental partnership between parents and Hashem. God partners with us in the physical creation of our children, and He partners with us in raising them as well. As we noted in an earlier piece, many aspects of child-rearing are beyond our control—and concerning those aspects, our recourse is to daven to Hashem that He guide us and our children on the correct path.

An even deeper message, however, emanates from this Talmudic passage—namely the need to cultivate within our children a sense of God as their Father.

We relate to God in many ways—most fundamentally, as Father and as King. Sometimes, we see Hashem as our King, a higher authority whom we must obey, and Who can reward or punish. Other times we see Hashem as our Father, a loving parent Who takes care of us. Throughout our lives, our connection to God vacillates between these extremes, as life experiences shape the nature of this relationship.

But what about to our children; which image should we stress: Hashem as King or as Father? While we need to teach them both, where should the emphasis be placed?

In previous generations, Hashem as King was the dominant theme educationally and religiously. The concept of an all-seeing God with a system of “reward and punishment” was central to religious education. We were encouraged to do the right thing primarily to attain a favorable judgment, leading to the proverbial “Jewish guilt” with which we are familiar. One could argue, however, that this was the correct approach at the time—as it encouraged generations of Jews to follow God and His mitzvot.

I would suggest that nowadays a fundamental shift is required in how we present God to our children. We must instead focus on God as our Father. We need to raise our children with a sense of deep connection to an Almighty Who cares about them and loves them as a parent loves a child. They must be taught to actively strive to feel God’s presence in their daily lives, and given the sense that He, in turn, yearns for a deep relationship with them. More than anything else, our children need to feel the warm embrace of God.

Of course, we must also impart to them the awareness that Hashem is also our King Who has expectations, and even demands, of us. But we must ensure that this awareness doesn’t become a method for “guilting” our children. Rather, we should help them realize that the demands of Judaism aren’t burdens borne in response to Hashem’s authority, but rather gifts rising out of His relationship with us, and His desire to connect with us.

On a personal note, I mentioned in an earlier piece that each Friday night, after giving my children the standard Shabbat bracha, I take a minute to share a personal bracha with each of them. While the content of the personal bracha varies from week to week, I end every bracha with each child with the following: “and always remember that no matter what, Abba, Eema, and Hashem love you so much.” These words capture the message that I feel is so important for today’s children—that as parents we will always love them no matter what, and that Hashem, as their Father in Heaven, will always love them as well.


Rav Yossi Goldin is a teacher and administrator who teaches in a number of seminaries and yeshivot across Israel. He currently lives in Shaalvim with his wife and family. He can be reached at [email protected].

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