People often mistakenly think that truly righteous people are somehow different, perhaps not totally "normal". Somehow we assume that, unlike regular people, tzadikim , (to paraphrase Shakespeare) "don't bleed or feel like we do". This approach is alien to Judaism. Yaakov called for Yosef to come to his bedside so that he could impart a final message to him. Yosef hurriedly came, bringing his sons Ephraim and Menashe to be with their grandfather. Upon seeing his grandchildren, Yaakov kissed and hugged them. The same Torah which does not deem it necessary to tell us about Abraham's discovery of G-d, much of Moshe's early life, or the 39 categories of forbidden work on Shabbat records something as apparently mundane as a grandparent showing affection to his grandchildren. The Torah evidently wants to stress the importance of the natural affection of a grandparent for their offspring. There is nothing unholy about a great and righteous person openly showing love for his family.
Honour and fear are the terms the Torah uses to describe the obligations of a child to a parent. The Talmud explains honour in terms of service: feeding, clothing and just being available to help take care of the needs of parents. Fear precludes a child from sitting in his parent's seat, answering back to them or calling them by their first names. Interestingly, there is no obligation to love one's parents. While we hope that there will be love, respect and fear are due in any case, even when the parents are not necessarily deserving of such treatment.
While the roles are interchangeable, the Sages identify each parent with a specific role in childrearing. The father represents the authoritarian figure (thus we naturally fear him), establishing firm rules and regulations accompanied by penalties for disobedience. The mother, on the other hand, represents a kinder, gentler approach (thus we naturally honour her) in striving to achieve the same goals. Her method is one of gentle persuasion.
The Torah, though, has no explicit obligations concerning the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. Grandparents, as can be seen from the example of Yaakov, represent a third approach, namely that of unbridled love and affection. With no diapers to change and an opportunity to sleep through the night, grandparents have the ability to enjoy the sweetness of their grandchildren without experiencing tzar gidul banim, the difficulty of childrearing.
Of all the Biblical figures, only Yaakov is described as having a relationship with his grandchildren. By establishing these links, Yaakov guaranteed the perpetuation of the Jewish people. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca were the leaders of families; however, it was Jacob who laid the foundation of the Jewish people.
Yaakov managed to bridge the natural generation gap. After all, Yaakov grew up in Israel in an agricultural society, and is described as one who "sits in tents". His grandchildren, on the other hand, were born and raised in the home of royalty in the most technologically advanced society of the day. Yet the distance in time and place did not detract from their ability to bond. This is what our Mesorah (tradition) is all about. In growing spiritually and intellectually, we have the ability to overcome the barriers of time and space. When we learn Torah, we feel Rashi's and the Rambam's immediate presence transcending both time and distance.
Many people have the custom to bless their children every Friday night using the words of blessing said by Yaakov: "may your children be like Ephraim and Menashe ". What a blessing it is when grandparents, children and grandchildren can bridge the generation gap as they add another chain in the link dating back from Sinai to our day!