UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim MirvisOffice of the Chief Rabbi

Three important lessons about successful Jewish parenting appear at the commencement of Parshat Tetzaveh. The Torah gives us a mitzvah in Shemot 27:20, “lehaalot ner tamid” to guarantee that there would be a continuous flame in the Sanctuary in the wilderness.

From the book of Mishlei, Proverbs 6:23, we know that, “Vetorah ohr” – Torah is the greatest light of our lives. For this reason, many of our commentators compare the imperative to kindle the light in the Sanctuary to the importance of conveying the essence of the light of our Torah through to the generations to come.

When it comes to kindling lights, I can identify three rules. We all have experience of lighting menorah, birthday or Shabbat candles.

Rule number one is that you can never predict whether that wick will co-operate or not.

Rule number two is that you have to have patience. Sometimes you’ll need to use match after match after match. Sometimes you’ll have to hold a long match next to a wick, waiting patiently for the wick to take on that light.

And rule number three is presented to us by Rashi on Shemot 27:20, at the beginning of our parsha. Rashi says, “Madlik,” – “You must kindle that light,” – “ad shet’hei shalhevet olah me’eleiha,” – “Until you can step back knowing that the flame will be burning of its own accord.”

In similar fashion when it comes to Chinuch, Jewish education, in our homes we have to be mindful of these three rules. Rule number one: you can never predict how any one particular child will respond – and sometimes the response of the same child can change from one age to another. Rule number two: we have to show an enormous amount of patience and love, often giving the warmth of our presence and our encouragement to our children. And rule number three: we discharge our responsibility when we successfully raise our children so that they can stand up and be proud of their Yiddishkeit, independently of ourselves, enthusiastically embracing the values, the content, and the practises of our Torah.

No wonder therefore that here the Torah is describing the ‘ner tamid’, the continuous flame which stands as a symbol of the continuous flame of our Judaism in this world. So to be successful parents, let’s be mindful of these three rules.

First, you never know how our children might respond.

Secondly, we have to show an enormous amount of patience and love.

And thirdly, let’s guarantee that our children will be fired up with enthusiasm and passion about their Judaism, not performing it only because we want them to, but performing it because they appreciate how fortunate they are to have the privilege of following a life filled with Torah to the extent that one day, please God, they in turn will pass on the glorious flame of our Judaism through to the generations to come.

Shabbat shalom.