And you shall teach them diligently to your sons, and shall speak of them as you sit in your house, and as you walk in the way, and as you are lying down, and as you are rising up. Deuteronomy 6:7
Teach Diligently – The intensive form of the Hebrew verb shanan means “to teach incisively.” These words are intended to cut deeply into the hearts of our children. They are to be inscribed into their hearts (remember that means will, emotion, cognition and action) just as an engraver would inscribe words of love on a golden ring. If we knew the origin of the Hebrew verb shanan, we would see just how “pointed” this is to be, for the literal meaning of shanan is “to sharpen with a whet stone.” It is commonly used of sharpening the points of arrows in preparation for battle. When you teach your children the Word of YHWH, you will probably draw some blood. You will puncture some defenses. You will cut into resistance. If you don’t, you did nothing to sharpen your sons and daughters.
The pictograph of Shin-Nun-Nun is “double life teeth,” in other words, “what consumes or destroys applied twice.” Iron sharpens iron. Iron twice. Well, life sharpens life, especially when a life of Torah observance (the parents) is diligently applied to the life of the children. The purpose of such sharpening is to grind off the rough edges so that the arrow point has the most effective result. In life, this means that no activity escapes smoothing. Sit, walk, lie down, rise up – all transitional actions during the periods of the day are to be whet stones in the hands of parents for the education of children.
Sounds great until we reflect on our position as Torah-observant instructors. Then we realize that we aren’t communicating information. We are communicating consumption and destruction. I don’t teach my children how to get up, sit, lie down or walk. I teach them how I sit, walk, lie down and rise up according to God’s Word. I can’t give them user manuals or encyclopedias. I have to show them how I live. They have to copy me! I am the whet stone. I have to grind away some of my life in order to sharpen theirs. It takes friction to change behavior. It doesn’t happen by reading about it. You’ve got to grind a little to make a point.
In a world where information transfer is the equivalent of teaching, we are more likely to desire our children to pass the exam, to regurgitate useless facts and opinions, to adopt problem-solving techniques that have little or nothing to do with life’s real issues. We want them to have A’s in remembering what the world wants to cram into their available mental capacity. But we certainly don’t want them to copy us. We already know how lost we are, what failures haunt us, what pains we carry inside. We don’t want any of that for our sons and daughters. We want them to be successful. So, we don’t apply the whet stone. We don’t let our lives grind them into a finely honed weapon for God. We don’t want friction. As a result, we get rookies who are easily overwhelmed in battle.
To teach diligently is to press the point, to grind when it hurts both parent and child, to scrape off some of my life for the sake of my children’s life. How will my actions help sharpen them if my actions have not yet been ground to a fine arrow tip?
Topical Index: teach diligently, sharpen, education, Deuteronomy 6:7