If we parents would be more careful in our behavior by setting the proper example, there would be less of a need for verbal direction.
This week’s Torah portion is “Emor” (Leviticus 21:1-24:23), which discusses the special laws that apply to the Kohanim, the priests who descend from Aaron, the brother of Moses. For example, a Kohen is not permitted to come into contact with the dead, and there are special rules on whom they may marry.
The reading opens with the following verse, “God said to Moses: Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them…” which then continues with a series of laws relating to the Kohanim.
The commentators are all bothered by this verse due to its superfluous language. Note the wording (which is even more strange in Hebrew): “Speak to the Kohanim” and “say to them.”
Why does the Torah repeat the same expression twice? We already know that God was instructing Moses to “speak to the Kohanim,” so why tell him again, in the same verse, “say to them”?
The commentators explain that the Kohanim must be told not only to follow these laws, but of the necessity to ensure that their children observe them as well.
Sounds nice. But here’s the problem: We don’t find the adult Kohanim doing so. We don’t see the adult Kohanim telling their children about the laws that apply to them There is no mention of a Kohen father telling his Kohen son about their special status and the laws that must be observed.
Good Role Models
So how and when did the young Kohanim learn about these special rules?
It is explained that there was no need for “Kohanim parents” to explicitly talk to their children about their status. There was no need for the special family discussion or father-to-son talk. Rather, the parents taught by example. They acted in a dignified and holy manner.
It seems that parents back then must have been wonderful role models In some situations, it is unnecessary to spell things out. Monkey see, monkey do. Children see how their parents act and emulate their behavior.
This is such an important message especially in our day and age, when there are so many challenges and negative influences in society. There are also so many parents who say one thing to their children, but do quite another.
A better slogan than “practice what you preach” is just “practice properly.” Be a leader. Do the right thing. Say “please” and “thank you” to the waiter, postman, cashier, and so on. Let the other car make the turn first sometimes. Always speak of the positive, not the negative.If we parents would be more careful in our behavior by setting the proper example, there would be less of a need for verbal direction.
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:
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