In anticipation of the revelation at Sinai – the climactic moment of Matan Torah – G-d requested that the Jewish people provide guarantors who will ensure that the Torah remains relevant forever.
As related in the Midrash, the Jews first nominated our three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each one of these spiritual giants were worthy of such an honor and the combined merits of all three would surely convince G-d that the Jews mean business. This idea was not acceptable to G-d.
The prophets were next in line. In each generation, a righteous leader would inspire the people to strengthen their commitment to Torah study, mitzvah observance and participation. These constant reminders will ensure the Torah remains part and parcel of Jewish life.
This offer G-d rejected as well.
Finally, the Jewish nation offered their children. They will be educated to live according to the Torah and to educate the subsequent generations as well.
Jackpot! G-d accepted this offer and the dramatic events of Sinai proceeded to change reality forever.
Education serves as the catalyst for receiving the Torah.
Offering the patriarchs as a first choice was indicative of the human tendency to rely on the virtue of lineage. We hope that the memory of an illustrious line of worthy grandparents would perhaps serve as an inspiration to keep tradition alive. Such a strategy has proven faulty and rarely effective.
The second offer proved problematic as well. There is a tendency to designate a select few individuals to be the spiritual conscience of the community. Relying on the wakeup calls of prophets is hardly a way to ensure the continuity of Torah life.
Finally, education was proposed. By designating their children as the guarantors of the Torah, the parents committed themselves to an uncompromising standard. Far more than simply training the youngsters in the academic depths of Torah study during school hours, educating a child is a constant endeavor.
They are inquisitive and genuine. Success depends on constant engagement, self-introspection and primarily action. The exemplary behavior of parents is the most crucial ingredient in raising proud, passionate and observant Jews.
While lineage and inspiration are certainly helpful, the all-encompassing task of serving as role models and teachers of the next generation is the secret to the eternity of Judaism.
Judaism is all about education and modeling Jewish life for the next generation. If we examine some of the Jewish holidays, we’ll discover education at the core of it. Take Passover. The reason for most of the customs at the Seder is so that the children will ask questions and get answers. In other words, educating the next generation. Take Chanukah.
The Hebrew word chinuch – education is one of the roots of the word Chanukah. This common thread of education is found throughout Judaism.
Perhaps this is why the Lubavitcher rebbe so enthusiastically encouraged all men, women and children, including babies, to attend shul on Shavuot to hear the reading of the Ten Commandments. Shavuot serves as the foundation of the relationship between the Jewish people and Torah. Education serves as the foundation for a child’s life.
As we prepare to receive the Torah anew, reflect on the responsibility we all have in living up to our obligation to Hashem, to provide a new generation of worthy guarantors for the greatest gift of all – the Torah.
Rabbi Levi Brook leads Chabad of Waukesha. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York.