By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
The story is told of the rabbi who had a brother who was a doctor. One day, somebody mistakenly called the rabbi and asked if he could make an appointment with the doctor. "You must be mistaken", said the rabbi. "You probably want to speak to my brother. He practices--I preach."
The Parsha this week, Emor, (Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23) begins with the verse "Speak to the Kohanim… and say to them..." (Leviticus 21:1).
The commenter Rashi explains that the phrase is teaching us "to warn the elders concerning the younger ones." From this we understand that we have to take responsibility for the education of our children or, for that matter, others whom we come into contact with. We cannot just sit back, relax and expect education to "just happen." It takes personal effort, not just from teachers in schools or other institutions, but also from each of us as parents. Children do, of course, learn at school, but it has to be reinforced at home, by the parents and the home environment.
The word "to warn" in Hebrew (l'hazhir) in the above-quoted phrase comes from the same word as "to shine." Our efforts to educate others should have a positive effect on ourselves, as well. How is this? When we are trying to educate others, we should become conscious of our own behavior and our own character. We need to try to practice what we preach. In trying to impart good character traits and ideals to others, we find ourselves having to scrutinize and improve our own behavior so as to be a "shining example" to those we are seeking to educate and inspire; in Hebrew called a “Dugma Chaya” – a living example. Actions speak louder than words. No amount of preaching substitutes for practice, for a living example for others to follow and become inspired by.
As the Talmud tells us, Rabbi Chanina related: "I learnt much from my teachers, more from my peers, but the most from my students."
By being a shining example of the values and character traits we hold dear, we find ourselves growing, becoming more conscious of our own behavior. In our efforts to impart ideas to others, we ourselves can benefit in our own personal character development.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg)