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  • Family and Society
  • Children's Upbringing

Obligation to Guide Teens


Rabbi David Sperling

Elul 24, 5771
What is the obligation of parents to educate their post bar/bat mitzvah teens in Torah, good character traits, etc.?
Shalom, Thank you for such an interesting question. Rav Eliezer Melamed shlitah has written on this subject, and it can be found (in Hebrew) in his Pninay Halacha, vol. 4, p. 46-50. He writes that there are two separate comands about learning Torah - one is for the parents to teach their children (Devarim 11,19 "And you shall teach your sons..."). This applies from the age the child can begin to learn, untill they know ALL the basics of Torah (which today usually includes up to a a few years in a post high school Yeshiva). There is another command on the children themselves to learn Torah (Devarim 5,1) which begins from when the child is bar/bat mitzvah. From then on there is a dual obligation - on the parents and the child, until the child is well versed in all these Torah basics. After this the obligation is only on the child. The same would seem to be true not just for Torah learning, but also for character traits and other mitzvot. However, it needs to be said that the obligation on the parents to educate the child will be fulfilled very differently for, say, a six year old, than for a 16 year old. A parent may well be obligated to educate their 16 year old - but the child has much more free will (and personal obligation) to choose to accept that education. (You can't for example send a 36 year old to his room for misbehavior). Therefore, the way the education is offered must take this into account, while parents find ways to help their children grow in Torah and Mitzvot untill the child is self sufficient in these areas. May you be blessed with children who give you much "naches"' Blessings.
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