This week’s Parasha begins with, “VeEileh Toledot Yitzchak Ben Avraham Avraham Holid Et Yitzchak,” “And these are the generations of Yitzchak, son of Avraham; Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak” (Bereishit 25:19). Rashi comments that “the generations of Yitzchak” refers to Yaakov and Eisav.
Rav Moshe Feinstein comments that when the Torah says that Avraham gave birth to Yitzchak, it shows the great praise of Yitzchak. By his actions, it was made clear to everyone that he was the son of Avraham, the one who recognized God in this world. This teaches the importance of actively educating our children properly and not relying solely on them seeing our actions and emulating us. The Gemara (Nedarim 81a) asks why in many cases a father is a Talmid Chacham but his son is not. The Gemara offers many reasons, but one of them is because the son views the Torah as a subject that this father mastered for himself, not a way of life for him to follow. No matter how committed one may be to the Torah, he might not be successful in passing it to his children. Even Yitzchak did not succeed completely; Eisav clearly did not internalize his father’s values.
Rav Moshe taught by example the importance of always using time properly, and his commitment to the Torah was transmitted to his children and students. Once, many years ago, I was davening on a weekday with Rav Moshe. While he was removing his Tefillin, he was learning Mishnayot. Someone asked him: “Does the Rosh HaYeshiva have to learn even now?” Rav Moshe answered that the Gemara in Masechet Yoma (9a; see also Berachot 29a and Avot 2:5) says that Yochanan Kohen Gadol served for eighty years but at the end of his life became a non-believer. If this could happen to him, it could happen to any of us. Therefore, Rav Moshe concluded, he must constantly be involved with learning and Mitzvot so as to make sure he always remained close to Hashem. Rav Moshe invested tremendous effort into his children to make sure that they would love Torah, and he merited to see his sons Rav Dovid and Rav Reuven become Roshei Yeshiva. Rav Reuven told me that in the winter, his father would put Rav Reuven’s clothing on the radiator to warm them up before waking him up in the morning so that he would want to get up to daven, learn, and serve Hashem.
The Steipler Gaon was once asked how he became the Steipler Gaon. He answered that his greatness was due to his mother’s prayers for him. The questioner persisted that the Steipler should have said “prayed” in past tense. The Steipler replied that the questioner was mistaken; even now, when he was in his 60s, his mother still prayed for him to be a Gaon.
If we can internalize the message Rashi is teaching us and put all of our efforts into the education of our children, hopefully we will merit having children who are fully committed to Hashem and His Torah.