Give Your Children The Space To Give To You

Principle 13 for Being an Inspiring Parent

The thirteenth video talks about how one of the ways we can all be inspiring parents is by creating time and space for our children to inspire us.

How to be an inspiring parent, last rule, Rule 13.

And I'm going to begin with a very interesting disagreement between the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi, the Babylonian Talmud, and the Jerusalem Talmud in Masechet Kiddushin. They are both discussing the idea of education and children and I don't know if any of you are yet grandparents watching this.

If you aren't, let me tell you (laughs) as a grandparent, the best is yet to come. You will have grandchildren and you will say, I never knew life got that good.

It's the biggest nachas in the universe, so the Gemara is actually discussing relation to education between grandparents and grandchildren, and listen to what the Talmud Bavli says.

Amar Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi lived in Lod in the third century, kol hamelamed et ben b'noh torah ma'aleh alav hakatuv ke'ilu kiblah mihar sinai. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says, anyone who has the privilege of teaching Torah to his grandchildren is as if he or she received the Torah personally from Mount Sinai. And as a result, the Rabbis were always very, very careful to take the grandchildren to school, to have them, to go over the parsha with them and so on.

That's the Babylonian Talmud.

The Jerusalem Talmud records a different tradition, in the name of the same Rabbi, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, and the Gemara tells a story about a Rabbi who, Friday afternoon, he'd gone to the public bath and there's a rule on Friday afternoon, if there's still time before Shabbat, im hitchilu ein mafsikin (Mishna Shabbat 1:2) if you've begun, if you've already started the bath you don't have to interrupt.

And there's a Rabbi who's sitting in the bathroom and he suddenly remembers something and he gets up and puts his clothes on and he's about to rush off and his fellow Rabbi says, but there's a Mishnah, a rule saying that if you've begun you don't have to interrupt and he said, but I haven't yet heard Torah from my grandchild.

He says "is that a small thing?" "Amar lei Chiyya b'ni Chiyya", "my friend, dear beloved Reb Chiyya," "kala hi be'eynecha," "is it a small thing in your eyes?" "Shekol hashomeah parsha min ben b'no ke'ilu hu shom'ah mihar sinai," "anyone who learns Torah from his grandchild is as if he received it at Sinai." The Babylonian Talmud says the greatest pleasure in life is to teach Torah to your grandchildren.

The Jerusalem Talmud begs to differ, it says no. The greatest pleasure in life is to have your grandchildren teach Torah to you.

And now I come back to the point with which I began. And it's the thing that had the deepest influence on my life.

I mentioned to you earlier on in Rule Two that my late father of blessed memory had to leave school at the age of 14, and as a result never had a full, formal Jewish or secular education and this always hurt him a lot. And I remember from my childhood that we'd be coming back from shul on a Shabbat morning, I was five years old, and I would say, "Dad, why did we do this?" "Why did we do that?"

And my father always gave me the same answer, and that was the answer that changed my life. He said, "Jonathan, I didn't have a Jewish education, so I can't answer your questions. But one day, you will have the education that I didn't have. And when that happens, you will teach me the answers to those questions."

Guys I don't know if you want your kids to grow up to be Chief Rabbis but if you do, that's how it's done. The greatest gift you can give a child or a grandchild is not what you teach them, but what you empower and allow them to teach you.

There's a tiny little halachah in Hilchot Matnot Aniyyim, the Jewish laws of charity, the Rambam brings it.

And it's a weird halachah and it says "afilu ani hamitparnes min hatzedaka chayyav liten tzedakah." Even if somebody's so poor that they only live on the basis of charity, they have to give charity.

Why so? It's a crazy law. The answer is because charity is not only material, it's also psychological. The greatest gift is the ability to give. And if somebody's so totally dependent on charity that they're always receiving and never giving, they're being denied a basic human dignity. And that applies to our children.

Guys, as parents, we give them everything. There's one thing we sometimes forget to give them which is the chance for them to give something to us. And that, frankly, is the most important thing there is.

I began by telling a story about how I've been so inspired by our children. Of course they had a great advantage, they had Elaine as a mum, which compensated for the great problem of having me as a dad.

But I always felt, when I saw my kids inspire me and they have done so many times, that wonderful Gemara in Bava Metzia, it's a famous Gemara you know, where Rabbi Eliezer and the Rabbis are having an argument and Rabbi Yehoshua and a Bas Kol, a voice comes down from Heaven and says what have you got against Rabbi Eliezer? The law is like him in every place!

And Rabbi Yehoshua gets up and says to Heaven "loh bashamayim hi" the Torah is not made in Heaven, God, You gave us the authority to decide who is the law like, and we're overruling You.

And the Gemara wants to know, they asked Eliyahu haNavi: Tell me what did God do or say in Heaven the day His children down here on Earth outvoted Him? Was He angry?

And Elijah the Prophet told Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi: He smiled and said "nitzchuni banai, nitzchuni banai" My children are cleverer than I am. That is God as a Jewish parent.

Friends, give your children the space to give to you. Let them become your teachers. Let them be your inspiration. And you will have inspired them to become what they truly can become.

That is Rule 13, the last of the rules - for the moment at any rate. Go and enjoy your children, thank God for them, be inspired by them. And you will help them become the people that they were destined to be and create the blessings God wants them to be. Every success.

This video series, Inspired Parenting, consists of thirteen short videos of Rabbi Sacks discussing some of the ways we can be inspiring parents and really kindle the flame of Torah in our children.

We hope you will learn, as Rabbi Sacks did, from exploring these ideas.