The She’ma, found in Deuteronomy Chapter 6, is recited by observant Jews at least twice a day. The words it contains are foundational to Biblical religion. It affirms the uniqueness of God. It commands us to respond to Him with all our hearts. It tells us that the way of Truth affects every area of our lives. And most importantly, once we have wholeheartedly embraced all these things, it reminds us of our duty to pass it along to the next generation.
I have heard it said that the believing community is only ever one generation away from extinction. God knows this is true, that’s why it is a sacred duty for parents to instruct their children in the things of God. We are to talk of God and Torah when we sit in our home, when we are going somewhere, when we lie down and when we rise up. That pretty much covers most of the day. And for those of us living the truth minute by minute, that is not such a daunting task. We should always be talking about godly things in one form or another, it should be second nature. Our children will see us pray, they will see our commitment and our enthusiasm because that is who we are.
But for some, particularly those who relegate religious activity to one day a week, the duty to instruct our children will not be so easy. Perhaps the only time they see us pray is when we recite a short rhyme over dinner. Maybe our children see little self-control in our lives. If we are not modeling a godly lifestyle to our children, how can we expect them to act godly? If we do not impute godly values and practices to our children through our words and actions, why should we expect them to grow up to be godly men and women? And if we are not around enough to model these things, how can we expect our children to see them.
Raising children is an awesome responsibility and a sacred duty. Raising children to fear God is even more challenging. But if we dedicate ourselves to living for God all the time, serving him with joy and gladness, constantly displaying godly behavior before our children, they will catch our commitment and the people of God will have been strongly established for the next generation.