In this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Bo, we begin to learn some of the general rules of Jewish pedagogy, how to teach the next generation.
The Parsha begins with Moshe being sent yet again to Paroh to warn him to send out the Jews or risk new horrors of plagues. However, Moshe is told that again Paroh will not listen, and G-d explains to Moshe why He hardened Paroh’s heart ‘so G-d could do the wonders’ and (verse 2) you will tell in the ears of your sons and grandsons” all about G-d and the Exodus.
The concept of punishment, of an Almighty G-d who settles scores, is burned into the psyche of the Jewish people through the plagues G-d brought upon Egypt. It was punishment with a drama that lasts beyond its own times.
The verse says G-d tells us to tell our kids “es asher hisalaltee b’mitzrayim” Rashi: Seechakti – G-d says to tell the kids that G-d laughed in Egypt. We think we know G-d’s plan, we think we control our destinies, but it is laughable to G-d, for G-d controls destiny and what is happening. At end of time, when Mashiach comes, it says that “az yimalay sechok peenu” our mouths will be filled with laughter; when we finally realize there was a Master Plan, we will be laughing, too. It is hard sometimes to laugh when we are suffering the sling of what we think is random fate. Yet, there are things unfolding that we have no clue about, and G-d laughs at us and our puny explanations and arguments. Aggressors and wicked people who think they can get away with their evil, G-d laughs at them, for He will settle scores with them.
The verse instructs us to tell it to children and grandchildren. Chinuch – Jewish education- done properly has to last beyond your children to your grandchildren. How do you make sure it lasts into the next generation beyond your kids? By so impressing your kids, they have to share it with their own children.
Why the wordage “tesaper b’uznay” [“tell it in the ears of”] – that the way you tell it differs from the way the world tells it – you tell it with a G-d slant and tailored to the person you are talking to. Many people hear different things. But your children should have a personal connection to the recounting. It should enter their individual ears, tailored for their understanding.
Now I digress just a wee bit. I got a call some time ago about a charming, smart boy who was having problems because he had an abusive rebbe. He had been kicked out of school for two weeks and didn’t want to daven. While speaking to the mother, we discussed various approaches to dealing with the challenging situation, and as happens very often in my conversations about the abuse happening to the kids in our generation, the history of Dovid Hamelech came up.
I explained to the mother that Dovid really had no one on his side when he was growing up. His father, his brothers, his townsmen, they all looked down at him, mocked him, jeered him, shunned him. Yet, he grew in spirituality and greatness, grew beyond the pain and abuse. He did this by having a rock-solid relationship with G-d. The question is, how’d that happen, from where did he get the momentum to build his connection to G-d?
We are told that Dovid’s mother would whisper to him, from the time he was a wee little baby in his cradle and tell him, “Kodesh Mee’rechem”, ‘you are sanctified from the womb’. His mother believed in him, no matter what the rebbe might say. His mother told him he was special no matter what the charges were made against him. His mother allowed him to know his own true essence. She whispered, “B’uznay” in the ears of her child, telling him he was great enough to know G-d, no matter who abused him.
It is more than okay, it is demanded, of Jewish mothers to back their child 1000%, The word Emunah [faith] comes from the word Aym [mother], faith comes from the mother. And one of the important things each mother must tell her child is that G-d exists, there will be an eventual reckoning dealt out to abusers and that G-d will laugh, as will her child, so long as her child knows G-d and trusts G-d.