With one simple word in this week’s Parsha, we can learn a lesson with profound implications. Upon hearing about the captivity of Lot, the pasuk describes how “[Avraham] armed his initiates who had been born in his house” (14:14). This word “initiates” follows the explanation of Rashi, who is trying to explain the meaning of “chanichav”. Some editions of Rashi explain that this word was a reference to Eliezer, Avraham’s trusted aide, and it is also the earliest mention of the word “chinuch”.
Rashi, when explaining this word, provides us with an insight which goes far beyond just how Avraham raised Eliezer: “He initiated him into mitzvot. [The word] means- beginning the entrance of a person (or utensil) into the task for which he/it will remain in the future”. While the sentence seems clear, it’s also unnecessary. Why must Rashi add the words “for which he will remain in the future”? Why not simply say, ‘the beginning of the entrance into a task’. What does the future have to do with it?
Rav Meir Shapiro of Lublin, most-known for starting the Daf-Yomi movement, explains teh importance of this nuance from Rashi. If a person raises his or her child to learn Torah and do mitzvot, but does so without the future in mind, that is not “chinuch”, education. True chinuch requires that we have the end-goal in mind; that we hope our children will grow up to be Gd-fearing Jews, with a sense of loyalty to Torah and mitzvot when they are adults. When we send our children to school it should not simply be because ‘they should learn’, or worse, ‘because their friends are doing it’. We have to believe in the value at the end of the road for it to count at the beginning. This affects not only how they’ll learn in school, or even do their homework properly, but how we, as parents exemplify the same behaviors.
While in the form of education this concept is easy to grasp, we often find it difficult to practice in other areas. It might be going to shul for the sole purpose of socializing, eating or drinking certain things because others are doing it, or even giving charity for the sake of the recognition. Without a sincere belief in the product, then the process is lacking, even from the onset of the task. As we say in Lecha Dodi, Hashem practices “Sof ma’aseh bemachshavah techilah”- that when Hashem made the world, Shabbos was at the forefront of His thought, even if it was only the end-product. To emulate Gd, decisions can’t be made in a vacuum. Instead, actions must be based on the goals which they will ultimately meet. Not only will the attainment of the goals then be recognized, but even the beginnings will be rewarded too.