First Words…. – Parashat Eikev

“….And you shall teach them to your children to speak with them….” (Devarim 11:19)At what age is a father obligated to teach his son? When he begins to speak, he should teach him “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe…”, as well as the first verse of Shema Yisrael. —Shulchan Aruch Harav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:1

וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם לְדַבֵּר בָּם – דברים יא, יט

Parashat Eikev

In the previous parsha, Va’eschana, the Torah commands us: “– You shall teach them thoroughly to your children”. Rashi (6:7) explains that “children” in that context is a reference to students, and the words ושננתם לבניך instruct us to teach the Torah to all who seek to study, and not only to our own children. It is only from the command in Parshas Eikev “וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת בְּנֵיכֶם לְדַבֵּר בָּם – teach them to your children to speak with them” that we learn the Halachic obligation for a father to personally teach the Torah to his biological progeny. (See Shulchan Aruch Harav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:1.)

These two phrases are interpreted differently because the commandment of ושננתם, to teach the Torah thoroughly (see Rashi there), can only begin when a child is of the age of comprehension, whereas the commandment ולמדתם speaks of a much earlier stage in education.

The commandment of ולמדתם is to “teach your children to speak with them”, that a child’s earliest speech should be words of Torah. As Rashi explains, this means, “From the moment your son knows how to speak, teach him (the verse) “Moshe commanded us the Torah.” Let him learn speech through this.” This obligation obviously begins at home, long before the child can be sent to a teacher. Clearly then, this refers to a parent’s personal obligation to teach Torah to his children, an obligation which begins when the child first begins to talk. Already at this early age, the father must recite verses of Torah with his child, thereby etching words of Torah in the child’s memory.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 9, p. 33, fn. 3; Sichos Kodesh 5737, vol. 2, pp. 387-388

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