Parenting 101


We need a license to drive, teach, become a doctor, and so much more. We understand that pursuits such as these require training and that without the proper education, it would make for a frightfully dangerous society.

Is parenting any less significant than the tasks listed above? How a child is raised shapes her life, and by extension the world around her. There is no greater influence on the life of a child than his parent. So, why isn’t there a training manual for parenting? Or is there?

There is actually a training manual that the world has had access to for over 3,300 years: the Torah. In the narratives, the laws, and between the lines of Scripture, is a divine training manual on how to live. How to marry; how to be a good spouse, parent, grandparent, sibling, friend, and citizen – it’s all in there waiting for our study and implementation.

In Parshat Chayei Sarah (Gen. 25:28), the Torah tells of the birth of Isaac and Rebecca’s twins, Jacob and Esau, and their child development:

וַיֵּצֵ֤א הָרִאשׁוֹן֙ אַדְמוֹנִ֔י כֻּלּ֖וֹ כְּאַדֶּ֣רֶת שֵׂעָ֑ר וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ שְׁמ֖וֹ עֵשָֽׂו׃
כווְאַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֞ן יָצָ֣א אָחִ֗יו וְיָד֤וֹ אֹחֶ֙זֶת֙ בַּעֲקֵ֣ב עֵשָׂ֔ו וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ יַעֲקֹ֑ב וְיִצְחָ֛ק בֶּן־שִׁשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה בְּלֶ֥דֶת אֹתָֽם׃
כזוַֽיִּגְדְּלוּ֙ הַנְּעָרִ֔ים וַיְהִ֣י עֵשָׂ֗ו אִ֛ישׁ יֹדֵ֥עַ צַ֖יִד אִ֣ישׁ שָׂדֶ֑ה וְיַעֲקֹב֙ אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃

The first one emerged red, like a hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau. 

Then his brother emerged, holding on to the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob. (which means Heel) Isaac was sixty years old when they were born. 

When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp.

As the Parshah advances, we learn that Esau hates Jacob; he is jealous of the blessing his father bestows on him and even plans to kill his brother, Jacob, after his father, Isaac, dies. What went wrong here?

The late great Rabbi Samson Raphael wrote that the misstep made by Isaac and Rebecca was that they raised Jacob and Esau similarly. Despite that they were twins, there was precious little that Jacob and Esau shared, barring their parents. These twins were incredibly different physically, emotionally, and intellectually. They needed to be guided towards different spaces to help find their places in the world. 

So, too, today, parents must help their children find and develop their own unique talents and skill sets so they can advance and emerge as productive members of the world around us.

This is but one of the thousands of lessons we can learn from the Torah to enrich our lives and live them with meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Epstein


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