Children's minds are a wonder, so impressionable, trusting and open. In Pirkei Avot Elisha says "Studying when young is like writing on fresh paper, studying when grown is like writing on paper that has been written and erased many times". From the first moments after birth, we are trying to make sense of this world and our place in it. For Jews, regardless of beliefs or observance, this includes how we relate to G-d and the Torah.
From highly observant homes to avowed agnostics, there is a message conveyed about G-d and the Torah, sometimes with words, other times through silence. Children take what they are told at face value, and they fill in the gaps of knowledge with their own experiences to come to an understanding.
For better or for worse, most children will come to understand G-d through watching their parents or primary caregivers, who come closest to this power. This means depending on if a parent was loving or cold, kind of cruel, warm or distant, so will be the child's understanding of what G-d is.
Whatever the G-d of our childhood was in our minds stays with us throughout our lives. Unless we actively develop that into a mature understanding, it remains the same. In other areas, for example taxes or voting, we are forced to develop our understanding of them and replace our ideas from childhood with reality.
We often refer to G-d as "Our G-d and the G-d of our fathers". Creating a personal relationship with G-d, studying His wisdom-the Torah- is placed before the G-d of our fathers, the one we were given as children and taught by our parents.
How do we do this? We'll talk more about this next week.