In Parshat Vayeshev we learn a poignant lesson in parenting from the story of Yaakov Avinu who displayed special favor to his son Yosef, the firstborn of his favorite wife Rachel. Rashi Ha’kadosh (a”h) teaches us that Yaakov taught Yosef all of the Torah he had learned in the yeshivah of Shem and Ever, and he purchased fine wool and made his son a special coat. This favoritism caused his brothers to be jealous of him.
Eventually, the jealousy turned into hatred, which led to the brothers selling Yosef into slavery. The result of this was the exile and slavery of the Jewish people for hundreds of years.
Rashi Ha’kadosh shares a parenting lesson that he draws from the story of Yosef and his brothers. He wrotes that it is improper to show favoritism to one child over another. The Gemara of Shabat states: “As a result of the favoritism that Yaakov showed to Yosef by purchasing him fine wool that weighed two additional sla’im [an ancient measure], his brothers were jealous of him and this resulted in our forefathers going down to Egypt.”
What is the Torah’s perspective regarding proper childrearing and education?
- The impact that parents have on a child begins even before the child is born. For this reason, mothers should be particularly cautious to eat kosher food when pregnant.
- The Gemara of Yoma states that one should not encourage children to transgress any negative commandment, even when they are very young. For this reason, the Shulchan Aruch states that a parent should not feed his child non-kosher food.
- When a child is old enough to understand the concept that some things are forbidden, one should train him or her not to transgress the negative commandments. For example, the Gemara of Yevamot states that one should encourage a child not to engage in activities that are forbidden on Shabbat, not to speak in inappropriate ways, etc.
- The training for the positive mitzvot begins at the age that is appropriate for each mitzvah. The Gemara of Yevamot teaches us that when a child is able to listen to Kidush and understand the concept of Shabbat, he or she should be trained to listen to Kidush.