There’s a very special energy felt in the air starting every Wednesday. The energy intensifies as the week draws to a close, or maybe it’s drawing to a beginning—as time gets closer and closer to Friday evening, to Shabbat. Where I live, in Jerusalem, you not only feel the energy, but you see the increased crowds in the food markets and shops as people prepare for the holy Shabbat. There are longer lines in the supermarkets, fishmonger and butcher store. The bakeries become packed. It’s intense, the preparations for Shabbat. Intense and beautiful.

This past Friday, I ran quickly to the market to pick up some last-minute ingredients. The shuk (market) was of course packed, not only with shoppers, but with tourists. As I made my way to my favorite vegetable stand, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of the tourist mother with her 4- or 5-year-old daughter.

“If you don’t stop complaining, you are NOT going to enjoy yourself! If you don’t stop all your complaining, you are NOT going to be very HAPPY!” The mother huffed and puffed at her daughter as she tugged her along by the hand.

I turned to the right. They kept going straight. Her words kept ringing in my ears: “If you don’t stop complaining, you are NOT going to be very HAPPY!” I started laughing to myself. Why? Well, first of all, I could totally identify with this mother, as I am sure that I myself have said the same words to at least one, if not all, of my children at one time or another. Second, I laughed as I thought how the one doing the complaining was really the mother, not the daughter.

In Hebrew, the word for “education” is chinuch. The root of this word consists of the letters chet, nun, chaf. While the first and last letters are different, they sound alike. Therefore, if you were to switch the order from backward to forward, the word would sound the same.

What does the word chinuch teach us? In order to give over something, in order to teach something, you have to know it, you have to own it, you have to “practice what you preach.” While the teacher and the student, or the parent and the child, are not exactly the same (each is its own letter), the lessons have to reflect the person giving them over. For example, you can’t teach a child not to get angry when you yourself are easily angered. The outside has to reflect the inside. This is the meaning of chinuch.

When the Greeks came to rule over Israel, they tried to teach a philosophy that was completely the opposite of this idea of what chinuch means. For them, there was no need for the external and physical to reflect the internal and spiritual. You could be a great philosopher and teacher of “ethics” and yet lead a life that was in direct contradiction to the values that you taught. This is why the Greeks sought to destroy Judaism and prohibited anyone from teaching Torah—because in Judaism, the goal is to elevate the physical and make it spiritual. The goal is for the external to reflect the internal, for holiness to reflect holiness.

In Judaism, a teacher, mentor, rabbi and, of course, parent is expected to act and behave in the way that the Torah, which they are teaching, instructs them to as well. In Judaism, it’s a privilege and a responsibility to be a teacher and a parent; therefore, you actually have to work on YOURSELF, and on your weakness or challenges in the process of teaching and parenting. Actually, working on yourself is the process of teaching.

It’s the middle of the winter, and I just returned from the shuk. We prepare our menorah, filling each glass vial with olive oil and wicks. The smell of fried potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts) permeates the air. The sun sets. It’s dark outside. My husband recites the blessings and lights the Chanukah menorah. For a half-an-hour, I take a seat on our balcony, right in front of our beautiful menorah, which burns and radiates light. I sit, I think, I look at my children as they sing or dance or play by the oil’s light. I pray that I be able to guide them and raise them properly, with unconditional love and endless patience.

But as I sit in front of the menorah, I take this most opportune time for prayer to ask G‑d to help me be a good role model. I pray that I be a source of light that illuminates my children’s paths to holiness. I pray that my behavior be a reflection of what I teach, and that G‑d give me the ability to bring out the best in myself and in each one of them.