Parents as Models

For better or worse, children learn how to be in the world from their parents.

Commentary on Parashat Nasso, Numbers 4:21 - 7:89

When you live with someone, it’s difficult to become a model.  People who live together see one another’s flaws and weaknesses and all their inconsistencies. Still, even with that reality, parents must be models for their children. For better or worse, children learn how to be in the world from their parents. Parents learn that it’s not what we instruct verbally, but what we do ourselves that is the most powerful teacher of all.

In this week’s Torah portion, the laws of a Nazarite are enumerated for someone who voluntarily takes on stringent rules for a defined period of time. No wine, no cutting of one’s hair, no contact with the dead. Samson was an example of a Nazarite whose goal was to achieve a higher-than-required level of holiness.

The example of the Nazarite discipline can lead us to reflect on what we can take on voluntarily to become a better model to our children, ethically and spiritually. For example, we might think of refraining from speaking ill of our neighbors, friends and family, to commit to a greater level of honesty, or volunteer to do social justice work. It’s important to choose a few specific areas and set achievable goals. We don’t want to create the illusion that we are perfect. That can only lead to

disappointment and disillusionment.  It’s important to be honest with our children about our weaknesses even as we try to model our strengths. If we aren’t open about our vulnerabilities, they are sure to notice!

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about areas of ethical behavior they can improve.


· Who do you learn from?

· Who are your heroes and models?

· What do you learn from them?

· What areas of your life would you like to improve?

From “Values and Ethics: Torah Topics for Today,” available from Behrman House Publishers.


Discover More

The Purpose of Kashrut

Kashrut reminds us again and again that Jewish spirituality is inseparable from the physical.

Must One Honor an Abusive Parent?

While fully aware of the corrosive effect of abuse by parents, rabbinic literature still encourages expressions of respect and honor for such parents.

Guide to Weekly Torah Commentaries Online

Where to find podcasts, videos and essays on the week's portion.

A Caretaker’s Prayer

O God, pray heal her!

The Impossible World

How to restore the world to a single divine reality.

Constantly Feeding Our Internal Spark

Our books, texts, and traditions bring new meaning to us at different stages of our life.

Separation of Powers

The Torah provides a model for separating religious, judicial, and governing bodies -- to keep power in check.