Parshat YaYechi, “Teach it to your Children” - Just before he is about to die, Jacob summons his children to gather around his bed. He tells his sons, "Come together, that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come." Then, rather than beginning his list of predictions, he interposes the comment, "Assemble and hearken, O sons of Jacob; ve-shim'u el Yisrael avichem (Hearken to Israel, your father)."
The Rabbis notice that his words sound like the Shema, the creed of Judaism. They imagine in the Midrash a dialogue between Jacob and his sons about these words. He is saying, “recite the Shema, my children” and they respond by doing so, leading him to say, with comfort and relief upon hearing his sons’ devotion, the words we recite next after the Shema, baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed, “blessed is the Name of God’s glorious majesty forever.”
When we say Shema, we should remember this story. For “the sons,” us as the younger generation – we need to be able to say it sincerely and gratefully for the legacy of our elders. Do we say the Shema as the twelve sons did in a way that honors what our elders held dear – candles, Shabbat, etc.?
And for us as elders, what are you doing to make the younger generation hearken to the call of Judaism as Jacob did? Are you setting the example for them so they can respond truthfully, “We hear!”
Pledge with me – when you say the Shema, to think of these things and how you can in the future, bring them out, wherever you stand in the great chain of the Jewish people.