Grab the Gold

February 13th, 2018 Posted by Thought Tools 26 comments

Here’s a question for politicians:  Do you really want to fight poverty?  I mean do you really, really want to end poverty, or do you just want to get re-elected?

If you really mean it, I have some good news for you along with some bad news.

The good news is that you no longer need to impose confiscatory rates of taxation upon hard-working families in order to give some people the money that other people have earned. 

The bad news is that many of your constituents would rather deal with the disease than confront the cure.  The reason I say this is because the one sure way to defeat poverty in one generation is to enact policies that would ensure that most children will be raised by married parents in wholesome and intact marriages.  The problem is that many of your constituents are more committed to liberal social policies that undermine marriage than they are to ending poverty.

The Brookings Institution, which is certainly no friend of traditional morality, through its Center on Children and Families is only one of many reputable organizations whose research has left little doubt that children do far better when they grow up in a traditionally strong family.  Many on the left ask, “But why should growing up with a married mother and father have anything to do with how well children do in their careers when they grow up?”

One answer is leadership.  For a family to thrive, effective parental leadership is vital.  For a business enterprise to thrive, effective leadership is just as essential.  Not surprisingly, a child growing up in a strong family absorbs the lessons of leadership from his parents and is thus equipped to deploy that leadership later on.

Here are three lessons of leadership crucially necessary for successfully managing a family as well as for running a business organization.

(i)  When leaders make mistakes or commit moral lapses, the entire enterprise, family or business, is imperiled.  Just think of Hollywood’s once prominent and prospering Weinstein entertainment colossus.  Or, just think of any of the families you know torn asunder by infidelity. Leadership means responsibility rather than privilege or license.

(ii)  Leaders know that when they do make mistakes, they, and only they carry the burden of repairing the consequences of those mistakes. 

(iii)  Leaders know that part of their job is ensuring that children, employees and associates retain strong moral anchors in accordance with the value system of the family or organization.  They must exercise constant vigilance because if subordinates lose their links to the central moral core, lapses in conduct are sure to follow.

Ancient Jewish wisdom teaches us these three practical lessons in leadership from a fascinating sequence of events related in chapters 6-8 in Joshua. 

Here is a brief summary of the story.  Following God’s instructions to Joshua, Israel conquered the city of Jericho.   Though Joshua directed that all its treasures should be consecrated to God, one fellow named Achan helped himself to some choice items of plunder. 

Joshua’s military advisors indicated that Israel’s next target, the city of Ai, would require no more than a small force to gain a quick victory.  That small army was ignominiously defeated by the men of Ai, and Israel was thrown into doubt and fear.  God explained to Joshua that the calamity was caused by transgression; someone had stolen items from Jericho.  He assured Joshua that all would be well if the culprit was punished, and He instructed Joshua how to identify the perpetrator. 

The next morning Joshua paraded the people through a selection process, finally identifying Achan.

Achan confessed to having taken a garment from Shinar (many translations mistakenly say, ‘Babylonian garment’) along with a quantity of silver and gold.  After Achan was executed, Israel again attacked the city of Ai and this time they triumphed decisively.   

Among the questions we must ask:

(i) Why was all Israel punished with such a shocking defeat when only one man, Achan, committed the wrong?

(ii) Why did God not simply identify the miscreant Himself, rather than having Joshua conduct a mysterious identification process? 

(iii) We can understand why Achan took silver and gold but why a cloak from Shinar?

Ancient Jewish wisdom provides the answers:

(i)  The leader of Israel, Joshua, was just as culpable as Achan.  God never declared that Israel should not plunder Jericho. Joshua came up with this unnecessary prohibition on his own. (Joshua 6:18).  If only Joshua had not added his own restrictions to God’s direction, what Achan did would have been permitted.  Israel could have legitimately plundered Jericho just as God explicitly told them to do at Ai. (Joshua 8:2)  All of Israel was punished by a terribly defeat because the leader had erred.  He had promulgated a law that God had not directed.

(ii)  God didn’t identify Achan as the criminal because Achan didn’t violate God’s law; he violated Joshua’s law.  Thus the onus was upon Joshua to solve the crime.  God sometimes leaves us to climb out of holes that we ourselves dig.

(iii)  The Shinar garment is Scripture’s way of making us refer back to the Bible’s first mention of Shinar in Genesis 10:10. Along with three other references close-by, these allude to Nimrod’s war against God.  Achan did want the gold and silver.  However, because he mistakenly believed that God had prohibited that treasure, to get them he first had to break his relationship with God just as Nimrod had done.  After that he felt free to seize the gold and silver.

Whenever parents understand and absorb these three lessons they are better able to build a strong and effective family.  These three lessons also help business leaders build strong and effective organizations.  Yes, successful marriages and happy families not only give their children a ladder from poverty to prosperity but they also give their children a head start in becoming excellent organizational leaders themselves.  That would be good for them and for their society.  But are politicians willing to declare what almost everyone knows? Namely, that stable marriages are the finest environment for children and society.  I don’t know.

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26 comments

Joe Harper says:

Thank you so much for this lesson. Rabbi Lapin you are truly a great teacher, for I have learned so much from your teachings and feel so refreshed after reading these lessons. They make me a better person and I believe able best to help others. My concern is that many elected officials aren’t even moral anymore and live like many of their constituents. It seems like the hard working class is being enslaved by taxes and rules. But the God of Abraham and our God will see us through. Thank you very much Rabbi.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks for writing, Joe:-
So good to hear from you. For many reasons, most people have a negative impression of politicians. We used to be governed by citizens who had succeeded in private life and took a few years to serve–at personal sacrifice. Today we are governed by a privileged class who, like president Obama, have never done anything but politics and enrich themselves way beyond anything they could possibly command in the private sector. Public service? What a joke! Their self-serving narrative is that government and politics are too complex and too important to leave to the inexperienced and untrained. Enough people disagreed to elect Donald Trump.
Cordially
RDL

Debbie says:

I wish I were as brilliant as yourself, I think! Great insights, thank you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Debbie:-
Far from brilliant, I can assure you. Merely a very good transmitter of all the ancient Jewish wisdom I was privileged to have been taught.
Thanks for appreciating it as I do.
Cordially
RDL

Ben McFie says:

Wow, this was very interesting, I thought I knew the story of Achan, but not like this. Thank you.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

So good to hear from you Ben:-
Thanks for taking the time to write.
Cordially
RDL

Brian F. Tucker says:

Wow! What a lesson. I can hardly wait to copy and read it to our Sunday school class. I have thought for a while. We didn’t need a tea party, we needed a bulldozer party.
Push the entire city into the Patomac. But then again the EPA would probably arrest us for paluting the river.

Respectfully,
Brian

Virginia Turner says:

Reading your Thought Tools has really enriched my Bible reading. My first cover to cover reading of the Bible 5 years ago was a chore accomplished by sheer determination. Frightfully dull in sections. Now, with your snippets of ancient Jewish wisdom, the Bible has come alive, and reading it is an adventure. I’ve found a richness that came from understanding more about what’s left unsaid (ancient Jewish wisdom contribution), and broadens the scope of the written scripture. And those dull sections are now new areas to appreciate and learn from. Thank you so much! Everyone DOES need a Rabbi!!

James says:

It seems very fitting that God leaves us the freedom to dig a hole, but then leaves to us the task of extricating ourselves from the hole we have dug. The punishment fitting the crime! As for the politicians, you are so right. They are so busy feathering their own nests and stuffing their own wallets with Congress-initiated pay raises that most of them (not all) forget about ‘We the People’ entirely. That, as you suggest, is precisely the reason I chose Donald Trump as my candidate, and thus far he does seem like the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf, vanquishing one Grendel swamp monster at a time. Would that he could just push a button and make them all disappear! But then if he could and did, such an awesome and reckless mechanism of power could be monstrously abused, facilitating the rise of a dictator. Too much power, even to do good, is a perilous thing for human beings.

Comfort says:

Interesting. Is there a way through which an individual is allowed to break their own vow to God according to ancient Jewish wisdom?

Karen Boswell says:

My what happens when we take our own path rather than following God’s instructions.

I had never looked at the Achan / Joshua episode in such light.

It makes so much more ‘sense’ to me now.

Everyone really does need a Rabbi.

Thanks for letting me ‘adopt’ you as mine

Simon Muyambo says:

Thank you. This is a great in revealing hidden truths. Please clarify. Joshua 6:2 does not include plunder unless it is implied in the phrase “I have given into thine hand Jericho”. Verse 18 refers to “accursed” referred to in verse 17 as “the city shall be accursed, even it and all that are therein”. How then does Joshua’s command become additional to what God said?

Dennis says:

I’m still trying to get my head around God directing people to plunder. Plunder is stealing, right? What about the “Thou shalt not seal” thing. Are we to assume God got “wise” to theft? Now my wolrd is amiss…

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Dennis–
Good question. Plunder is not theft. In general, commandments are given to individuals; nations operate under a very different set of rules, particularly Israel. For instance, 6th Commandment is Thou Shall not murder. You and I may not take lives. However, a court system may execute criminals. That is not murder.
Here is how I put it to an earlier questioner:
God gives us the power to alter our realities. This is a huge gift as it allows poor people to become rich and people from rotten backgrounds to rise above them. This means that God takes our commitments seriously as should we. Think back to what Eve told the serpent: < > (Genesis 3:3). Well, a careful examination of what God actually did say about the trees reveals that He said Adam and Eve were not to eat from them. He never said anything about touching. Well, Eve hadn’t yet been created at the time of that original instruction so it is evident that on his own, Adam added on the ‘don’t touch’ rule. It didn’t turn out well.
In our case, Joshua also added on the don’t plunder rule and it also didn’t work out well. But when a senior employee of a company makes a commitment that he had no authority to make, the wise company heads stick to his commitment even though they may punish the out-of-line executive who made the commitment. God honors Joshua’s commitment (or rule) even though it wasn’t His idea. This we know because he explicitly instructs Israel to plunder when they conquer Ai. Plunder is a legitimate part of war. In fact, it is usually the main reason for war. Why do you think N Korea wants to take over S Korea? For the same reason Hitler wanted to take over Czechoslovakia, Russia and most else of Europe. He thereby acquired their resources, manufacturing ability, and workers. In other words, plunder. America, in my view, was very wrong in not making Iraq, Kuwait, and other states pay for America’s rescue with oil. Right, plunder. The word has a bad connotation when we think of it, often in the context of pirates, but the action is not necessarily immoral. (That is, if the war in the first place was moral)
Hope this helps and thanks for writing,
Cordially
RDL

CK says:

Dear Rabbi Lapin,

First, let me say that I really enjoy your readings! I have a question to build on the above comment, which is, how can plunder be moral when it involves the harm of civilians? I understand the distinction between the actions of an individual versus a nation, but it doesn’t seem right to me that civilians (esp. women and children) who did not take part in their nation’s decision to go war should be ransacked in the aftermath. Could you please explain further…

Best wishes at all times,
Clare

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Clare–
So nice of you to write; I appreciate your encouraging words. Now to your question: The problem is that you are asking your question on the basis of something that just isn’t true. It is a widely held but incorrect belief that somehow, civilians are a special and privileged group of citizens who should be exempt from the consequences of war. Look at it from the point of the other side. Why should it be okay only to kill the soldier who fires a canon at me but not okay to kill the people who built the canon and the shell in the enemy’s factories. You see, while it would be nice if nations would send their official gladiators (military) off to have a little war while all the good folks at home could carry on eating ice cream and riding the carousel, this is not how the world REALLY works. If war is necessary, then the objective must be total victory as quickly as possible and this is best achieved by destroying the other side’s ability to wage war and by obliterating his will to wage war. Civilians are not an exempt class of humans. I can think of no war in history in which civilians lived under an exemption that nothing nasty would happen to them because they were civilians. When your country goes to war, anything can happen–to you. When your nation imposes a tax, the fact that you opposed the tax does not exempt you from paying the tax. When your nation goes to war, the fact that you opposed the war doesn’t exempt you from fighting, paying for the war, and possibly losing your possessions if the enemy wins and invades your town. I am sorry Clare but my job is not to massage you with warm butter but to reveal how the world REALLY works. Please listen to the podcast show regularly. It will help. And meanwhile, I hope this brief explanation also helps.
Cordially
RDL

Angela says:

Phenomenal! Thank you for answering this question on plundering and concerns towards loss of Life. Another question comes to mind Rabbi… “Why was King David seen as a warrior with blood on his hands (1Chronicles 28:3)?” Yes he was in wars (what earthly king has not participated/initiated this). And yes he did commit an unrighteous killing, but God is forgiving. Curious as to why Abba still referred to him almost negatively. Thanks in advance and Blessings to you, your family and this form of ministry.

Lisa says:

As usual Rabbi, you present the Torah as such food for thought. My mind is definitely chewing on this as manna from heaven. I’m not sure if I’m catching this though, so bear with me. So Achan was violating his relationship with HaShem, but not the law of HaShem? And since Joshua was chosen by HaShem to lead, Joshua’s command had to be obey even if Joshua erred in what HaShem instructed. And Achan was severely dealt with but not Joshua, is that correct?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Lisa–
Good question and in fact, Joshua was punished for overstepping his authority. Here’s how I put it to an earlier questioner.
God gives us the power to alter our realities. This is a huge gift as it allows poor people to become rich and people from rotten backgrounds to rise above them. This means that God takes our commitments seriously as should we. Think back to what Eve told the serpent: < > (Genesis 3:3). Well, a careful examination of what God actually did say about the trees reveals that He said Adam and Eve were not to eat from them. He never said anything about touching. Well, Eve hadn’t yet been created at the time of that original instruction so it is evident that on his own, Adam added on the ‘don’t touch’ rule. It didn’t turn out well.
In our case, Joshua also added on the don’t plunder rule and it also didn’t work out well. But when a senior employee of a company makes a commitment that he had no authority to make, the wise company heads stick to his commitment even though they may punish the out-of-line executive who made the commitment. God honors Joshua’s commitment (or rule) even though it wasn’t His idea. This we know because he explicitly instructs Israel to plunder when they conquer Ai. Plunder is a legitimate part of war. In fact, it is usually the main reason for war. Why do you think N Korea wants to take over S Korea? For the same reason Hitler wanted to take over Czechoslovakia, Russia and most else of Europe. He thereby acquired their resources, manufacturing ability, and workers. In other words, plunder. America, in my view, was very wrong in not making Iraq, Kuwait, and other states pay for America’s rescue with oil. Right, plunder. The word has a bad connotation when we think of it, often in the context of pirates, but the action is not necessarily immoral. (That is, if the war in the first place was moral)
Hope this helps and thanks for writing,
Cordially
RDL

Ramsey says:

Wow….. Very eye opening Rabbi, I have loved it. I realise just like Joshua setup a law we do the same in our day to day life. Like when looking for a job God is ready to link us to one but we then add a promise that half of my first 3 pay checks will go to God. we give the first and then we realise the budget is tight and forego the rest. We end up not getting any pay raise or promotions and we wonder where we went astray. Yet we bound our selves.
This is my first time to get your Thought Tool mail and am glad I subscribed. I really do need a Rabbi in my life and family. Back here in Uganda we think more in having Pastors as our teachers but many just like the politicians are driven by the spirit of Mammon which is very sad and non will give us such wisdom that you Rabbi give. Thank you so much. I just have two simple questions.
1. How do I and my family get to be part of your flock? (I hope my wording is correct)
2. How can one overcome the laws we set upon our selves as in the case of Joshua? (please do note that many times we don’t remember we set them up)
Am sorry if this is the wrong place to ask…. as a newbie I still have a lot to learn and good thing am up for the challenge.
Am really glad I got to know about you from an interview you had with Pat on 700 club that I watched on you tube.
You are a breath of fresh air in our walk with God and a ray of Hope that we can still make it. Please keep up the good work you and your wife are doing may God richly bless you.

Paul morley says:

Why is it in chapter 7 verse 11 that God states they have violated my covenant and taken some devoted things. Doesn’t this indicate the command came from God as jerico was to be firstfruits to God in the promised land? We don’t know if this was something the commander of the lords army said to Joshua in chapter 5. Your thoughts please.

Rudy F. says:

Same question here on my side, dear Mr. Lapin.

Besides this, I really enjoyed reading your interpretation and the intro of the article about what politicians REALLY want to do. It made me think about the things which I say are important while pursuing sometimes sth. different.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Sure Paul,
Here is what I answered Karen above:
God gives us the power to alter our realities. This is a huge gift as it allows poor people to become rich and people from rotten backgrounds to rise above them. This means that God takes our commitments seriously as should we. Think back to what Eve told the serpent: < > (Genesis 3:3). Well, a careful examination of what God actually did say about the trees reveals that He said Adam and Eve were not to eat from them. He never said anything about touching. Well, Eve hadn’t yet been created at the time of that original instruction so it is evident that on his own, Adam added on the ‘don’t touch’ rule. It didn’t turn out well.
In our case, Joshua also added on the don’t plunder rule and it also didn’t work out well. But when a senior employee of a company makes a commitment that he had no authority to make, the wise company heads stick to his commitment even though they may punish the out-of-line executive who made the commitment. God honors Joshua’s commitment (or rule) even though it wasn’t His idea. This we know because he explicitly instructs Israel to plunder when they conquer Ai. Plunder is a legitimate part of war. In fact, it is usually the main reason for war. Why do you think N Korea wants to take over S Korea? For the same reason Hitler wanted to take over Czechoslovakia, Russia and most else of Europe. He thereby acquired their resources, manufacturing ability, and workers. In other words, plunder. America, in my view, was very wrong in not making Iraq, Kuwait, and other states pay for America’s rescue with oil. Right, plunder. The word has a bad connotation when we think of it, often in the context of pirates, but the action is not necessarily immoral. (That is, if the war in the first place was moral)
Hope this helps and thanks for writing,
Cordially
RDL

Roy says:

What a life changing lesson! I’m encouraged and enriched.

Sharon Knotts says:

Rabbi Lapin, I am often richly informed and inspired by your teachings. However, I am confused about your statement that it was Joshua and NOT God who commanded Israel not to take of the cursed things, and as such, he erred, causing Achan to transgress. But in Joshua 7:10-11, after the shocking defeat at Ai when Joshua inquired of God why, the LORD said, “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have taken of the accursed thing…” Wasn’t Joshua speaking God’s commandment regarding this?

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Sharon–
God gives us the power to alter our realities. This is a huge gift as it allows poor people to become rich and people from rotten backgrounds to rise above them. This means that God takes our commitments seriously as should we. Think back to what Eve told the serpent: < > (Genesis 3:3). Well, a careful examination of what God actually did say about the trees reveals that He said Adam and Eve were not to eat from them. He never said anything about touching. Well, Eve hadn’t yet been created at the time of that original instruction so it is evident that on his own, Adam added on the ‘don’t touch’ rule. It didn’t turn out well.
In our case, Joshua also added on the don’t plunder rule and it also didn’t work out well. But when a senior employee of a company makes a commitment that he had no authority to make, the wise company heads stick to his commitment even though they may punish the out-of-line executive who made the commitment. God honors Joshua’s commitment (or rule) even though it wasn’t His idea. This we know because he explicitly instructs Israel to plunder when they conquer Ai. Plunder is a legitimate part of war. In fact, it is usually the main reason for war. Why do you think N Korea wants to take over S Korea? For the same reason Hitler wanted to take over Czechoslovakia, Russia and most else of Europe. He thereby acquired their resources, manufacturing ability, and workers. In other words, plunder. America, in my view, was very wrong in not making Iraq, Kuwait, and other states pay for America’s rescue with oil. Right, plunder. The word has a bad connotation when we think of it, often in the context of pirates, but the action is not necessarily immoral. (That is, if the war in the first place was moral)
Hope this helps and thanks for writing,
Cordially
RDL

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