When democracies vote, citizens hope to elect leaders whose values align with their own. The problem is, how do you know? One clue is to pay far more attention to what they have done over the years than to what they say. Interestingly, in America’s recent election, the news media along with their attendant opinion-generators focused exclusively on the candidates’ words. In one case to ignore prior misdeeds, and in the other to ignore prior accomplishments. What is wonderful about raising children is that they pretty much ignore what parents say but derive their sense of values entirely from what parents actually do. A man I know understands this well: here is his story.
He struck success when his children were aged 10, 7, and 5. He and his wife moved out of their dilapidated house near downtown Dallas and into a mansion in Preston Hollow. They worried about their children becoming spoiled and never growing the will to struggle and succeed. They dreaded their kids developing the decadent diseases of the pampered.
They wanted their children to know that the family could survive happily without the trappings of wealth. They wanted them to learn that financial success is connected to spiritual success. They kept their run-down old residence and moved the family back into it for one week every year. The rest of the year, a local church used it for youth programs. But for one special week each year, the family strengthened its spirit by keeping alive the memory of where they came from. By remembering their history they protected their values.
As part of their training, soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces participate in a sunrise ceremony atop the heights of Masada where two thousand years ago Jewish soldiers died during a Roman siege. They are taken to Jerusalem’s Western Wall where Solomon’s Temple stood and to the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath. The Israelis know that to protect, defend, and guard something effectively, you must first remember why it is valuable.
Remember the Sabbath Day to sanctify it.
Guard the Sabbath Day to sanctify it…
In both verses Scripture is recording the fourth of the Ten Commandments. So which was it? Back on Mt. Sinai, did God say “Remember” or “Guard”? Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches that with His unique power, God said both words simultaneously because they are inseparable. We must learn that before we can effectively guard, protect, or defend anything, we first need to remember why we are doing so. It is impossible to effectively defend a country, a culture, a family’s values, a business, or indeed the Sabbath, without remembering the history that makes such defense worthwhile.
We find two other important distinctions between the Exodus account of the Fourth Commandment and its Deuteronomy counterpart.
Remember the Sabbath day to sanctify it.
Guard the Sabbath day to sanctify it
as the Lord your God has commanded you.
People who have just experienced a tumultuous event find it easy to obey the instruction, “Remember it.” Like those who lived through 9-11, the Israelites standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai found it easy to remember.
However, Deuteronomy describes a new generation of Israelites forty years after Sinai. These people need to be told to relate in a special way to the Sabbath not just because some powerful memory moves them but because God commanded it for all time.
Similarly, associates who worked with you to establish a business will always remember the values and vision that drove you. But you must help later employees also to remember the beginnings that they did not actually experience. Likewise, younger children need extra help remembering early family history and citizens need to be taught the history of their country.
Finally, one linkage to remembering the Sabbath is that God created heaven and earth in six days (Exodus 20:11) while another is that God took us out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15).
This teaches us that when inculcating children or associates with the vision and values that drive our family or organization, we should start with general ideas that apply to everyone. Thus, Exodus speaks of the creation of the world to which everyone can relate. Later, Deuteronomy speaks of the unique Egypt saga experienced exclusively by Israel, teaching us that only subsequently should we talk to children or partners about the specifics that apply distinctively to our family, our business or club.
Reprinted and adapted from Thought Tools July 25, 2012