By Rabbi Daniel Lapin
July 13, 2011
“You look at the sun three times a week?” asked George’s optometrist incredulously. George explained that counting sunspots was his hobby and he depended upon his eye-care professional to keep his vision healthy.
“I can only keep your eyes healthy, George, if you follow the rules,” insisted his doctor.
How ridiculous of George to keep looking at the sun and expecting his doctor to fix his eyes. Many of us harm our lives because we do not know how the world really works.
Here are two rules of reality that are helpful to know.
1) Regardless of
how much we possess, we are created with a drive to want even more.
2) Our actions can unintentionally harm our children’s lives.
We learn these two timeless truths by solving a pair of perplexing puzzles in the Biblical account of Noah.
The sons of Noah
who emerged from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and Ham was the father
Four verses later-
Ham, the father of Canaan saw his father’s nakedness…
Who cares that Ham was the father of Canaan? Why not also tell me who Shem and Japhet’s sons were? Furthermore, did we need a reminder of the relationship after only four verses?
Ham did something that the text (Genesis 9:22) refers to as “seeing his father’s nakedness.” Then, Noah awakens and utters a dreadful curse against Canaan.
And he said,
“Cursed is Canaan...”
Why would Noah punish Ham’s fourth son rather than the miscreant himself? How did a sleeping Noah even know what Ham did?
Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that the Torah uses euphemistic language. Ham’s terrible crime was castrating his father.
Why? After the Flood, God instructed Noah to be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 9:1) By making sure there would be no more sons, Ham wanted to guarantee that he would inherit 1/3 of the world rather than only 1/4.
So, Ham prevented the birth of Noah’s fourth son and Noah harmed Ham’s fourth son. But that’s not fair!
The Torah is teaching us two lessons we need to know.
1) Even someone who
owns as much as 1/4 of the entire world desires more.
2) Everything we do either helps or harms our children.
Scripture is far more than a history book; it is a guidebook to the world. It may not seem fair that parents’ misdeeds damage their children. But it is how the world works. As the Ten Commandments state, when we do something really bad , it impacts our children, our grandchildren and perhaps even our great-grandchildren. (Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9) Bernie Madoff’s children and grandchildren had their lives forever changed by the actions of the notorious swindler.
Knowing these rules truly benefits us. We can channel our own drive for desiring more into positive enterprise, thus using it constructively. We can also understand human nature better, thereby interacting more effectively with others.
We can behave in ways that give our children advantages rather than disadvantages. We can also structure our society more wisely. Instead of recognizing that children thrive in stable, two parent families, we normalize alternative arrangements. Instead of helping individual children overcome tough challenges we pretend that all situations are equivalent. In doing so, we encourage damaging conduct.
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People can and do often overcome the effects of their parents’ mistakes, but one of the strongest human impulses is to protect our children. God created the world with this parent/child connection to encourage us to behave properly, ever aware of our present and potential children.
As much as we like to believe that our actions are our own business, this simply isn’t true. Our behavior yesterday will even impact the lives of children we may bring into the world tomorrow.
Teaching reality as it is, rather than as how we would like it to be, is one major gift the Bible offers. There are many more reality lessons from Noah which I present in my 2 audio CD set, The Gathering Storm. It is this week’s highlighted (and discounted, online only) teaching. I’d like you to have it.
© 2011 Rabbi Daniel Lapin - All Rights Reserved
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Rabbi Daniel Lapin, known world-wide as America's Rabbi, is a noted rabbinic scholar, best-selling author and host of the Rabbi Daniel Lapin Show on San Francisco’s KSFO. He is one of America’s most eloquent speakers and his ability to extract life principles from the Bible and transmit them in an entertaining manner has brought countless numbers of Jews and Christians closer to their respective faiths. In 2007 Newsweek magazine included him in its list of America’s fifty most influential rabbis.
You can contact Rabbi Daniel Lapin through his website.
Web Site: www.rabbidaniellapin.com