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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Vayigash

There is no replacement for parents

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Joseph arrives in Egypt. Potiphar’s wife tries to entice him. What saved him from sin? Our Sages say: a profile of his father’s image appeared to him. How much does the image of a father or mother and their memories influence. How great is the strength that a father and/or mother can give to their children?

22 years pass. Joseph introduces himself to his brothers, and sends his father agalot (wagons, but could also be translated calves). When Jacob sees the wagons the Torah says (Genesis 45:27):

‘However, when they related to him all the words that Joseph had spoken to them, and he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to transport him, then the spirit of their father Jacob was revived.

Our Sages explain that Jacob learned with Joseph the topic of the decapitated calf (the calf whose neck was broken in expiation of an unsolved murder), and through the calves, Jacob remembered Joseph. Rashi says:

He gave them a sign about what he was busy with when he left him, on the subject of the decapitated calf, as it says, and he saw the wagons that Joseph sent and it doesn’t say that Pharaoh sent.

An amazing thing. 22 years beforehand Joseph learned this subject with Jacob. Now, after 22 years, this is the message of Joseph to his father?

It’s possible that there is significance to the internal messages of the decapitated calf, but there is another great message. What a tremendous influence a father learning with his son has! A tremendous influence that leaves its mark 22 years later! For 22 years Joseph is not at home, he lives in a different culture, in a different land, but what keeps him a Jew is the connection with his father, the same teaching that he learned with his father 22 years before.

Joshua the son of Gamla was the High Priest in the second Temple (see Tosefot Bava Batra 21a, and Tosefot Yeshanim ibid.). Our Sages praise him for a very important ordinance regarding education. Joshua the son of Gamla was the one who invented and amended the idea of a school. The Gemara in Bava Batra 21a says:

Rav Judah says in the name of Rav: On High they remember the man for good, and Joshua the son of Gamla is his name, for if not for him, Torah would have been forgotten from Israel. In the beginning, whoever had a father his father would teach him Torah, whoever didn’t have a father wouldn’t learn Torah…until Joshua the son of Gamla came and ordained that they would place teachers in every country and every city and they would start at the age of six or seven.

The amendment of Joshua the son of Gamla (Bava Batra 21a) to found schools was a wonderful amendment, about which our Sages say that "if not for him – Torah would have been forgotten from Israel" (ibid). However, this also caused a difficult problem. The responsibility for learning was transferred from the parents to the school. But that’s not the case; the parent’s bear the main responsibility for the irchild’s education.

Parents need to know that the main responsibility for their children’s learning and education is theirs and not the school’s nor the community’s.

Parents also need to know, that they, more than anyone else, possess the ability and power to educate their children. The school needs to enhance and reinforce learning and the education, the Rav of the community needs to add his part in strengthening Torah and Halacha, in educating to love the Torah and its learning, but the main education lies in the hands of the parents.

Parents need to say divrei Torah at the Shabbat table and parents need to make sure to learn with their children every week. We need to invest time in learning with our children. My master and teacher Rabbi Lichtenstein ZaTzaL once said that man needs to give up a career and a lot of things in life in order that he has free time to learn with his children.

Parent-child learning is not only for the purpose of acquiring biblical knowledge, strengthening faith, or fulfilling the commandment of learning Torah. Parent-child learning creates a Torah-based bond between parents and their children. This strengthens the special faith which is transmitted by parents, and reinforces the special and wonderful connection between parents and their children.

Equally as important as educating children to love Torah, is the parents’ learning. Learning should be done with love and joy. Only in this manner will children see the importance of learning Torah at home, and encourage them to be a part of it.

Learning with children demands effort and investment, but we also need Divine assistance. Therefore parents need to pray every day for their children.

By learning with children, we will also be strengthening Torah and our faith and building a wonderful connection between the child, his parents and G-d.
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