By Rabbi Daniel Levy, February 5, 2009

“Moses moved Israel on [against their will] from the Red Sea [since they were busy collecting the spoils of Egypt]” Exodus 15:22

Rashi explains that the booty came from the Egyptian horses which were bedecked with gold, silver and gemstones. When this was washed up on the shore, the people were so engrossed that Moses had to cajole them to progress with their journey to receive the Torah at Sinai.

This booty was later used to make the Golden Calf. Moses valiantly defended the people as the Talmud states: “The school of Rabbi Yanai said: ‘Moses spoke before the Almighty, the silver and gold which You showered on Israel … led to their making the Calf’… Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said: ‘It is like the case of a man who had a son; he bathed him, massaged him with oils, gave him plenty to eat and drink and hung a purse round his neck and set him down at the door of prostitutes. Is it any wonder if he is tempted to sin?’”

Parents can take a lesson from this. Too much materialism is often likely to lead to forgetting God, the source of our goodness, and thinking that we are masters of our own destiny. Parents who shower their children with money and luxuries should not be surprised if their children eventually go off the rails, lack gratitude or rebel. After all, it may be that the parents give them all the ingredients and temptations to lead them astray.

It is easy to think that having children in itself gives meaning to our lives. But without being imbued with a strong sense of values, children will struggle to find meaning, let it alone pass it on to the next generation.

Saying “no” is sometimes kinder than an easy “yes”. Children need to be given more than things, they need religious and moral values — they need to be moved on to Sinai.

Last updated: 2:28pm, February 5 2009