And Abraham will become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the world will be blessed in him. For I have known him because he commands his children and his household after him to keep the way of Hashem, to do righteousness and justice, in order that God might bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him. (Genesis 18:18-19)
The Torah teaches us that Abraham became av hamon goyim, the father of many nations, precisely because of the way he educated his family to keep God’s commandments and behave righteously. God declares that He loved Abraham ‘because he commands his children and his household after him to keep the way of Hashem, to do righteousness and justice, in order that God might bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him.’ (Genesis 18:19).
Abraham’s legacy has permeated every generation of Jewish existence. Throughout the ages Jewish families have embraced the importance and responsibility of both educating and raising children.
Our sages obligated young children who had reached the age of education to travel with their families to the Temple in Jerusalem for the three pilgrim festivals. Even though they had not yet reached the age of religious maturity, they were required to take part in the experience and learn about this important mitzvah.
According to Beis Hillel this obligation begins when the child is able to ride on his father’s shoulders as they ascend Har HaBayit on their way to the Temple, whereas Beis Shammai require the child to be able to hold their father’s hand and walk by themselves. Either way, the image is beautiful; parent and child experiencing together what must have been the most phenomenal sight of Jews from all over the land of Israel gathering in unity to serve God and celebrate the chagim.
We are certainly blessed with a wonderful Jewish educational system owing to an ever-growing community of Jewish schools. Yet the idea of parents and children celebrating Judaism together expresses the greatest paradigm of all for Jewish education.
While our schools provide a good framework for learning, it is our family which gives us a direct link back through the generations to our forefathers. When parents and grandparents share their love and excitement of Judaism, they will instil in their children and grandchildren the most important lessons of all.