Here in South Africa, there is a popular soap opera called "Generations." While the subject matter of this week's parshah is indeed rather dramatic, its significance goes way beyond the stuff that "soapies" are made of. It deals with the burning issue of Jewish continuity.

These are the generations of Isaac, son of Abraham, begins the reading. We learn of the birth of Jacob and Esau, how they go their different ways and how, rather circuitously, Isaac bestows the all-important blessings on Jacob. The commentaries explain that this was not merely a blessing but the symbolic handing over of the Jewish legacy to the next generation. Isaac was passing the baton of destiny on to Jacob. (Can you imagine if Esau received those critical blessings and would have become one of our founding fathers? Surely that would be "The Weakest Link"!)

Long ago, one of the sages of the Talmud said he had "learned much from his teachers, more from his colleagues, but the most from his pupils." I can go along with that. Some time back, a man for whom I had great respect came to see me to discuss certain issues he wanted his rabbi to clarify. This was a gentleman who had reached the apex of his profession, a highly intelligent and sensitive human being—and amongst other things, he said he had a confession to make. Now we rabbis have no experience at taking confessions—we refer people directly to G‑d for that sort of thing. But this man voluntarily wanted to share his most personal disappointment in life with me and I was profoundly flattered to have been found deserving of his trust.

This was his story. He came home from the wedding of his eldest daughter and, inexplicably, found himself crying. His wife said, "Why are you crying? You should be bubbling with joy." He answered, "I'm crying because I have just given away a daughter I don't know to a man I don't know." It had suddenly struck him with the force of a ton of bricks that he'd spent years and years building up his business but he had neglected his family. And suddenly the daughter he didn't really know was leaving the family home forever.

Thank G‑d, this man resolved to rectify the situation and went on to succeed admirably. But his story made a deep impression on me.

It is not only from a family point of view but also from a Jewish faith perspective that we need to know our children well. We tend to mistakenly assume that whatever positive feelings of faith, morals and yiddishkeit we imbibed as children from our parents will somehow automatically be transmitted to our own children. Wrong! It does not happen genetically. It takes lots of hard work and years of intimate, personal guidance by dedicated parents.

It's a new generation, folks. The influences on our kids' lives today are dramatic, powerful and not always pleasant. Internet, television, movies, computer games and even cell phones are making our children more sophisticated and grown-up at increasingly younger ages. If once upon a time young people were spared the test of assimilation by staying in a secure social circle, today one can get chatted up by anyone in the whole wide world right in the family study on the computer through the internet.

Tragically, children from the finest homes have gone terribly astray. If we don't transmit a healthy value system to the next generation, the vacuum will very likely be filled with other willing teachers, many of whom we may not approve of.

The good news is that our kids actually do want our guidance. As autonomous as they may appear, they actually crave direction in life. And at the end of the day, what they learn at home will make a far more lasting impression than what they pick up at school, or dare I say, even at shul.

Let my friend's story serve notice. Don't wait until after the wedding. Jewish continuity and future generations depend on it. G‑d bless you with success and lots of yiddishe nachas.