“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.
- Regardless of how much we possess, we are created with a drive to want even more.
- 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 Yaphet,
and Ham was the father of Canaan.
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 Yaphet’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.
- Even someone who owns as much as 1/3 of the entire world desires more.
- 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.
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.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Thought Tools post.
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Memorial Day Sale:
America’s Real War
To you, our Happy Warriors, who recognize the spiritual battle at the root of many interpersonal conflicts within America, we encourage you to pick up Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s award-winning book, America’s Real War, which is on sale through Memorial Day. Rabbi Lapin wrote this book in 1991, to explain why he was fighting to preserve America’s Christian heritage. He is still fighting today.