"These words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them to your sons"Deuteronomy 6:6-7.

Judaism places a huge premium on education. The scriptural verses charging parents with the responsibility and privilege of educating the next generation are recited several times daily as part of the Shema. Indeed, the Talmud (Shabbat 119b) declares that the Torah study emanating from the "pure sinless breath" of children may not be interrupted even for the purpose of building the Holy Temple! The Jewish tradition of free public schooling predates all other such institutions by many centuries (whatever happened to Jewish free schooling is a separate question…) Long before "overhauling the educational system" became one of the most hackneyed campaign promises, Jewish parents gave their all to ensure that their children received at the very least a rudimentary education. As in so many other areas, education is an area where the Torah's guidance has caused us to be a light unto the nations. Thus it is only natural to look back to the Torah to find insight into this matter.

An adult is expected to behave appropriately because he understands and appreciates the importance of doing so. A child, on the other hand, cannot be trusted to do the right thing simply because it is right; instead he needs extra prodding—the proverbial "carrot and the stick." A well-balanced education incorporates reward and praise as well as deterrents. Slowly, as the child matures, he is weaned from these crutches and is encouraged to walk the road of life on his own.

A child cannot be trusted to do the right thing simply because it is rightKing Solomon, the "wisest of all men," also adds his two cents to this critical topic: "Educate a child according to his way; [thus] even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it."1 The simple meaning of this nugget of wisdom is that the message will remain with the child long after he outgrows the educational methods. Long after he has colored his last coloring book, the lessons taught by those books will remain embedded in his consciousness. However, a deeper meaning for this verse has also been suggested: True, education is primarily for the young; but bear in mind that "Educate a child according to his way; [so that] even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it"—"it" referring to "his way", the way a child needs to be educated. The basic principles of education remain relevant at any age. A person never really outgrows the carrot and stick.

Within the framework of everyday life, everyone carries responsibilities; within the workplace as well as the family. Much frustration – and resulting lack of productivity – is caused by one party sensing that his contribution is not properly appreciated. The other party feels that gratitude should be reserved for "extra-special" effort. In truth, however, no one really outgrows the need for praise and appreciation. Granted, we execute our responsibilities because that is what must be done, but the "child within" still needs occasional pampering. We still want the carrot.

Similarly, as our relationship with G‑d maturates, we start appreciating the benefits of leading a spiritual life illuminated by Torah and mitzvot. Dad doesn't have to force us out of bed to go to synagogue on Shabbat—it actually becomes the high point of the week! Yet, one must never lose sight of the "stick." Our relationship with G‑d cannot be completely based on our personal quest for spirituality. We must always bear in mind that whether we enjoy it or not – and there will indubitably be moments when we don't – we are duty-bound to discharge our Divine mission.