Nothing Trumps Your History

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.
(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath Day to sanctify it…
(Deuteronomy 5:12)

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.
(Exodus 20:8)

Guard the Sabbath day to sanctify it
as the Lord your God has commanded you.
(Deuteronomy 5:12)

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

24 thoughts on “Nothing Trumps Your History”

  1. Your teaching on remembering and guarding was excellent. It brought back to me the trip to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery. Their guarding of that place is so much more than guarding the tomb. As you have enlightened me to The Lord’s language, I know see they are guarding the very foundation of the country itself, the ultimate sacrifice in exchange for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thank you!

  2. I LOVE this: “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.” Indeed, WONDERFUL!

    And now my son is raising (read: lifting, inspiring, teaching) me and I clearly see that what goes around comes around for it was not so much what I said, it is what I did.

    Do is more of an action than a word. As in Nike’s famous “Just do it!”

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Hello Aurelia–
      So good to hear that you are reaping the fruits of good child raising. The “Just Do It” slogan is inspiring in a way of course but it doesn’t displace the merits of careful planning and prudent execution.

  3. Absolutely everything always comes from Our Creator (through the created: us, you+me=humanity).

    Just another reminder (everything is a reminder) to worship/place above all else: The One, The Creator, where all originates.

    All spirit contained within this body,
    many thanks for your splendid sharing of wisdom, Rabbi.
    All peace & love,
    Aurelia Zojan

  4. This message was truly a blessing. I do a historian program at the church once a year. The Lord gave me the theme ‘Generation’ on Monday morning with no instructions or Scriptures. I received your messages, but didn’t always read all of them. This morning it was made clear the way the Lord wanted me to proceed through your message , ‘Nothing Trump’s your history’. Thank you. God speaks in many ways. Blessings to you and your family and ministry.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Navonne–
      Many mistakenly believe that we turn to Scripture only when baffled by a Biblical conundrum or confused by a theological puzzle. In reality we most need to seek Scriptural guidance in areas of politics, finance, marriage, childraising and all other real life day-to-day decisions. You won’t regret it.

    2. Rabbi Lappin’s 10 Commandments CD is soooooo worth the purchase. He gave me an incredible new outlook at the Lord’s commands but also the Lord spoke to me through his study about a pattern that was in my life that had to be removed. Don’t listen to it one time, go back and review it regularly.

      1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

        Thanks Dana–
        I am so pleased that our 10 Commandments audio program on CD had a positive practical impact on your life. That is the idea. Ancient Jewish wisdom is not meant to change only how we think but mainly how we act

  5. Thank you for giving me this fine resource to share with my friends who have questions for which they now desire to have answers. Pleasure seeing you again at Family Harvest Church where we eagerly await your return!

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Felicity–
      Delighted to know that you are sharing the resource–the recipient benefits; you benefit, and so do we. I remember meeting you at Family Harvest Church near Chicago recently and signing your book. Great to hear from you

  6. Great article. Loss of memory makes people repeat mistakes. People with real experience forget that others do not have the same experience and understanding

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Simon
      yes, indeed, memory both for an individual and for a group such as a nation is quite indispensable for endurance.

  7. President Elect Donald Trump has the Christians in America to back him, not banks, foreign interests (except I believe Israel), Saudi’s, and special interest groups. NOW more than ever he needs our prays for support, guidance and direction from Almighty God.

  8. i am sad that our country seems to becoming less a Christian nation. Also DO NOT LIKE HOW whatever issue is being discussed political parties or Stock market issues the ” fear mongers” (extremists) like to make us all fearful by saying that if we do not believe the way they do then terrible –extreme things will happen—-I have seen this often in my 82 years … I think NO ONE is answering those political POLLS anymore because we all know they slant their questions to get the answers they want. Thanks for listening

  9. Being a Christian believer, trying my best to ‘keep’ the commandments, I found this very helpful. I need a way, a reason, to keep the instruction, since my family has no obvious tradition of keeping the Law. My ancestors did come from an area close to Vilnius, Lithuania, however. I like to think there’s a bit of Jew in me from that. After all, in my grandmother’s kitchen, we had matzah ALLways available.

    1. Judy, I encourage you to devote yourself to the reading of Galatians and I pray the Holy Spirit will reveal to you why the Commandments were given.

      1. Hi Judy,

        I would highly encourage you to purchase Rabbi Lapin’s CD titled The Ten Commandments. While Paul’s letter to the Galatians is priceless in its instruction to the Christian church regarding Old Testament law, the Ten Commandments stand apart from that law. This is a little known Truth among contemporary Christians.

        By way of his CD, Rabbi Lapin will teach you how it is that the Ten Commandments are not so much commandments as they are PRINCIPLES. Five foundational principles lovingly delivered from God to mankind at Mt. Sinai. These five principles are expressed (or applied) twice each; once on the first of two tablets of stone, and then again with a different application on the second of two stone tablets.

        If you find the relationship between the “two tablets” even HALF as fascinating as I did when I first listened, then it the value of your purchase will far exceed the investment of your time and resources.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Welcome to the Tribe, Judy!!
      Kitchens are sometimes the best places to seek truth

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Dan–
      Are you assuming that it is EVER OKAY to play golf. A way of utterly wasting 3 or 4 hours of your life pursuing a small white ball around a large meadow providing little or no exercise or other discernible benefit? I suppose you can tell that I have never played golf. And I do know it is a valuable business tool because if you play with the right people it gives you extended access. But really, you need to play 7 days a week? C’mon Dan!
      For a more serious discussion though, submit your question to the Ask the Rabbi section of our website please. (and watch that follow through on your swing!)

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      That you are there John is exactly what fuels our passion for teaching
      thank you!

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart