Lead The Way, With High Ethical Standards

Principle 3 for Being an Inspiring Parent

This third video examines the importance of setting an example, living a life of high ethical ideals if you want your children to do the same.

How to be an inspiring parent, Rule Three. Okay. Here's a question: We know why Noah was chosen by God because Noach ish tzaddik tamim haya bedorotav et haElokim hithalech Noach. (Genesis 6:9) Noah was righteous, perfect in his generation. He walked with God. We know why God chose Moses. Those three scenes in his early life: an Egyptian attacking and Israelite, two Israelites fighting, shepherds driving off Jethro's daughters. Whenever Moses see an injustice he doesn't just stand and watch, he gets involved. He had a passion for justice.

But why did God choose Abraham? We're told nothing of Abraham's early life explicitly in the Torah. Why did God choose Abraham to be the grandfather of our faith, indeed, the grandfather of what we call Abrahamic monotheism throughout the world? There is only one place in the Torah where the Torah says explicitly why God chose Abraham. Listen to these words, taken from Genesis 18, parshat Vayera:

"Ki yedativ," says God. "I have chosen him - lema'ann asher yatzaveh et-banav v'et-bayto acharav - so that he will instruct his children and his household after him." Abraham was chosen not just because he was righteous like Noah, or a fighter for justice like Moses. He was chosen to be a parent. That is what the word, the letters "AV" in Avram and Avraham actually mean. Avram means mighty father. Avraham: Av-hamon goyim, father of many nations. Abraham was chosen because he would be an effective and inspiring parent.

So the question is, what comes next? What are the next words? "Lema'ann asher yatzaveh et-banav v'et-bayto acharav, veshamru derech Hashem la'assot tzedakah umishpat. He will teach his children to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.

God didn't say to Abraham, 'I want to make sure all your kids learn mishnayot ba'al peh.' (To learn, Mishnah by heart.) 'I don't want them to be able to give me a chiddush from Reb Chaim or the Bais Halevi...' I'm sure he wanted all those things, but that was not what God was saying. He was saying, "What I want you to teach your children is that they keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and what is just." You have to teach your kids high, ethical ideals, and not just ideals you talk about, but ideals you actually live, they see you living.

The Gemara says, vechi ma lo eshpat lo KaKadosh Baruch Hu im shoftim min Haar umin hatzoref. What difference does it make to a HaKadosh Baruch Hu the way we shecht an animal? Elah, says the Gemara, lo nitan Torah elah tzaref bahem et habriyot. God gave us the Torah to refine us as human beings. And if our children see us living a Judaism that refines us as human beings, my goodness me, they will be lifted, and they will be inspired, and they will go on to be an inspiration to others. But leave out those ethical principles, bad things are going to happen.

Therefore, Rule Three: All the details you teach your children are important, but the most important of all are the ethical ideals by which you live and by which you show them how to live, because that will guarantee you that those kids will go on to live those ideals, because that is what makes us Abraham's children.

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.