In the past, parents could give orders, and the younger generation obeyed. Today it is more complicated. In this week’s Portion, Chukat, we encounter a great educational principle. In the past, when Moshe Rabbenu had to provide water for the people to drink, he received clear instruction: “And thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it”. But in our Portion, decades later, prior to the entrance into Eretz Israel, the instruction is different: “And speak ye unto the rock before their eyes, that it gives forth its water”. Not to hit the rock – to speak to it.
Water is an allegory for Torah. Our commentators explain that there is a clear message here in relation to the Torah, to education, to every value we want to transmit today: the generation has changed. Their parents, who went out of Egypt, were slaves. They were used to the force of arm. In previous generations it was possible to command, to say: “Because this is what I said”, and that’s it. It was enough. But to the newer generation one must speak differently. Not with force, but also with love, persuasion and approval. A moment before the entrance to Eretz Israel, there is a message here: Exerting external authority is not enough. One needs to speak in a way which the younger generation will understand and internalize. Not with a stick in hand, but with persuasive words and pleasant talk. Good luck.