As parents, a significant value we try to impart to our children is the importance of hard work. Don’t expect handouts and don’t rely on others for you to succeed; if you want to make it in life, you need to put in the effort and you will see results.
All too often we are tempted to fall back on taking the easy way out. We may not be doing this intentionally, but that usually results in our taking advantage of someone else’s efforts. Of course, there are times when we have no choice and we must be on the receiving end of other people’s generosity; but nobody truly believes that this is an ideal situation to be in, and it certainly isn’t a permanent solution to our needs.
So we teach our children early on that hard work gets rewarded; the more effort you put into something, the greater and more satisfying the results will be. This is despite the fact that as children, they still depend on us — their parents — for their needs and sustenance. By emphasizing the importance of putting in the effort in order to accomplish something, as they grow less dependent on us, our children will have necessary tools to function in the world.
An example of this lesson can be found in the Torah’s prohibition of lending money to a fellow Jew on interest. From a business perspective, collecting interest on a loan is standard practice, however Torah forbids it when both the borrower and lender are Jewish in order to teach us this important lesson.
When a person invests capital in a business venture, his money is working for him and the profits are the result of his initial efforts in earning that money. That’s why, if the business succeeds, the investors benefit too; and if the venture doesn’t end up being successful, it will result in a loss for the investors of their investment.
A loan, on the other hand, becomes the borrower's asset. Although he obviously needs to eventually repay it to the lender per the loan’s terms, the lender has no direct benefit from whatever the borrower does with the money. Whether the borrower turns a profit from the loan or he loses everything, he must still repay the loan in its entirety; the lender doesn’t care that the investment didn’t work out. This implies that once the money is given to the borrower, it no longer belongs to the lender and any benefit he gains from the loan is “free money.”
That’s what the Torah wants us to avoid. G-d wants the world to operate in a way that we benefit from our work and toil, not to have a free lunch by making someone else do the work while we reap the benefits. Collecting interest on a loan is akin to expecting a handout without putting in the work.
This is true in the practical and financial sense, and it is also the case in the spiritual sense and our mission in life. We were placed here in order to transform the world around us into an abode for G-d’s presence, and the only way that can happen is through hard work and toil.
That’s what we teach our children, and that’s what we must practice in our own lives too — as examples for children.