Don’t Blame Me

On June 4, 1944, recognizing how easily D-Day could fail, Gen. Eisenhower prepared the following:

“Our landings…have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold… The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

As a family member or business professional, learning to accept responsibility is profoundly valuable.  Learn to say, “I messed up and I accept all consequences.” The character strength needed for this is increasingly rare and we need to acquire it ourselves before we can hope to influence others.

Hebrew reveals one aspect of owning one’s actions. Referring to Leah and Rachel’s sibling relationship in Genesis 29, two words are used, GDoLah and K’TaNah, older and younger. Earlier, when Lot and his daughters flee the destruction of Sodom, we encountered two other words BeCHiRah – firstborn, and TZeiRah – younger (19:31).   In chapter 19 we find a clustering of the root letters TZ-R.  Lot escapes to the city of TZoaR whose name occurs six times in this chapter. The associated word TZeiRah — younger— appears four times.  In just these few verses, the TZ-R root is used ten times; more than in the rest of Genesis all together.  Word clustering is one of the ways that ancient Jewish wisdom unpacks Scripture’s deeper meaning.

(read from right to left) 

 מ צ ר י ם צ  ר צ ע י ר ה צ  ו  ע   ר
im ya R TZ im R  TZ ha R ie TZ R  a o TZ

The word root TZ-R means narrow and confined.  These letters, for example, form the basis of the name miTZRayim—Egypt, Biblical nomenclature for a place that confines and restricts one.  What was restricting about Lot’s city of refuge, TZoaR? A refuge from any kind of stress is by its nature somewhat confining.  Anyone made homeless by financial mishap or family misfortune and who becomes dependent on others recognizes the limitations of refuge.

What is the connection with a younger child? Inevitably, being the younger is a somewhat restricting role.  Younger children by definition come into a family that has been shaped by the presence of the older child. They feel their older sibling’s power advantage.  Similarly, the younger or junior partner is usually at a slight disadvantage in any negotiation.

None of this implies that younger siblings or partners can’t rise above their circumstances and of course, those seeking refuge can and often do exceed those who initially have a home advantage. Many ambitious immigrants eventually outperform long-established citizens.

Ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that Rachel took an active role by stage-managing Leah’s marriage to Jacob. Knowing his future father-in-law to be a rogue, Jacob had pre-arranged signs by which Rachel would assure him that she, and not a substitute, was under the wedding canopy. Rather than allow her sister to be embarrassed as the subterfuge was uncovered, Rachel passed these signs on to Leah.  Rachel’s compassion for her sister as well as her transcendent understanding that Leah was destined to be a matriarch in Israel, overrode her personal desire to marry the man she loved. Possessing such noble leadership qualities made it inappropriate to call her a TZeiRah.

By contrast, Lot’s younger daughter instantly agrees to her older sister’s questionable suggestion. She unhesitatingly submits to her sister rather than taking charge of her own actions.  She acts as one who is limited and confined, a follower rather than an independent spirit.

We all start life as a TZ-R. We are restricted by finding ourselves born into a specific body, family, place and time.  Yet, our souls can always soar. Each of us has the choice to be like Lot’s younger daughter or like Rachel. We can point to our circumstances and say, “There’s nothing I can do to improve my situation,” or we can turn our liabilities into assets and focus on strengths, not weaknesses. Accepting responsibility puts us on the path to greatness.



8 thoughts on “Don’t Blame Me”

  1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Dear Celesta–
    you’ve obviously given this much thought. It’s a pleasure to share the teachings of ancient Jewish wisdom with you.

  2. That makes sense then, why the always SHORT-sighted, fainting Lot, who couldn’t muster himself to flee from Sodom and Gomorrah even when the angels GRABBED THEIR HANDS and pulled them away from the city, begged them if he could turn aside to Zoar, saying, “Oh please, but it’s just a LITTLE city.” I guess righteousness of soul produces endurance in all other areas, whereas shortsighted, can’t-turn-their-eyes-away-from-the-immediate-easy-way-i.e.-as-in-well-watered-plains-of-Jordan-instead-of-faith-in-the-unseen-like-Father-Abraham, CONFINED people living a TZ-R existence in their soul have not much root, no endurance, joy, or stability, and achieve very little compared to what they should be. Poor 2nd Lot’s daughter, sprung of the seed of LITTLE thinking Lot, dominated over by older sister, and stuck giving birth to incestuous offspring with disappointing destinies. Compared to Rachel and Leah.

  3. Dear Rabbi;

    How I love learning from your teachings. I nearly freaked out during the Jewish Holy Days when another program substituted ‘Ancient Jewish Wisdom’.

    I’m seeing that TZ-R was and is the best place from where I draw knowledge and produce my most creative thoughts and ideas.

    Being the only female and 3rd among my siblings from a single parent family that is very dysfunctional, I thrived in TZ-R achieving many things, as well as becoming an engineer by trade. My brothers didn’t achieve as much. Nor did most of my classmates (and I never attended college.)

    I have since retired at an early age to live in my wealth BUT, I have found it challenging to create TZ-R again so that I can continue to grow.

    Is this a unique ability? How is it that I thrive in TZ-R in order to be creative? I’m having a difficult time teaching it to my children (they temporarily live with us until they close on their new home). How can I create it again from what I perceive to be “too much overhead”? My husband does not want to scale down. Why do I feel more confined with much?
    I sort of create this in my giving or charity. I will purposely give until I find myself in a TZ-R in which I am able to think a strategy. Was Abraham there when G-d told him to go to a place where G-d would show him?

    1. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of the Bible with us. I have a question about your show on TCT, has it been cancelled? I hope not as you and Susan have enriched my life greatly! I am currently enjoying The Genesis Journey download. I send you love and blessings.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Susan-
      Thanks for your friendship. Whatever conversations we have with important people in our lives influence our thinking and creativity.

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