What if I told you that you could change how intelligent you are–or your children will be? Perhaps you’re saying, “That’s ridiculous. IQ is immutable and unlikely to be altered by one’s behavior. Or maybe you’re saying, “I don’t know, but if it’s true sign me up!”
However you may have reacted, I hope you’re intrigued enough by this proposition of ancient Jewish wisdom to try it out for size. I think you’ll be surprised at how precisely it accounts for your experiences in the real world.
We read of three men whose wisdom was admired and whose guidance and leadership was sought: Joseph, Daniel, and Mordechai. Each withstood alluring attempts to get him to abandon restraint.
Watch Joseph as his employer’s wife, by all accounts a most attractive woman, tries to seduce him.
…after these things, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, lie with me. But he refused… ‘[saying] because you are his wife, how can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ And she spoke to Joseph day by day but he did not listen to her to lie with her or be with her.
Soon after, we find that Joseph’s wisdom and leadership qualities become evident to all.
And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone like this man in whom the spirit of God is’? Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In as much as God has shown you all this, there is none so smart and wise as you are you shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be ruled.’
We encounter Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the court of King Nebuchadnezar. The Babylonian King, intending to entice them into the Babylonian aristocracy, arranged for them to be fed his royal, but unkosher, food.
And the king appointed them a daily portion of the king’s food, and of the wine which he drank; and to bring them up during three years, that at its end they might stand before the king. Among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Refusing to surrender their Hebrew identity, the four heroes requested a purely vegetarian diet (which is by definition kosher). The king’s steward, nervous about disobeying the king and being held responsible for the four Jews not looking well fed, hesitated. Daniel made this suggestion:
‘…test your servants, I beg you, ten days; and let them give us only vegetables to eat, and water to drink then let our faces be looked upon before you, against the faces of the other young people that eat of the portion of the king’s food; and according to what you see, deal with your servants’. So he consented to them in this matter, and tested them ten days and at the end of ten days their faces appeared better in appearance…
After resisting the appeal of the king’s food, Daniel and his colleagues became recognized for wisdom:
And the king talked with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah…in all matters of wisdom and understanding that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
Finally, we meet Mordechai who refused to bow to the wicked Haman. Each day, courtiers tried to persuade Mordechai to submit.
It came to pass as they spoke daily to him and he did not listen to them, that they told Haman…And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow, nor did him obeisance, then was Haman full of wrath.
Though it would have been so much easier to submit to Haman, Mordechai stood firm, loyal to his spiritual identity. Not surprisingly, as the book ends, we read:
And all the acts of his power and of his might, and the declaration of the greatness of Mordechai, to which the king advanced him, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?..Mordechai the Jew was next to King Ahasuerus…
What phenomenon is playing out in all these cases? Leviticus 11:43 sheds light.
ולא תִטַּמְּאוּ בָּהֶם וְנִטְמֵתֶם בָּם
…nor shall you make yourselves impure with them [forbidden non-kosher foods] that you should be made impure by them.
The underlined Hebrew root for impure is (טמ(א, pronounced TaM(eh)
Ancient Jewish wisdom asks what the repetition of the root word TaM adds to the verse. The response is that in addition to impure, the word also means unintelligent, dull or– dumb. In fact, T’ and ‘D’ are both dental consonants, produced by placing the tongue behind the upper teeth causing considerable etymological ambiguity between these two letters. Many scholars believe that the English word ‘dumb’ derived from the Hebrew source TaM.
IMPURE = טמ = DUMB
The message is that yielding to pressure, including bodily appetites, reduces the chances of a happy and fulfilled life. What is more, submitting to hedonistic urges gradually makes one stupid. If practiced multi-generationally, it eventually produces very dumb people. The process of exercising restraint and saying ‘no’ makes people smarter and better suited to leadership.
In other words, adhering to Biblical faith, its rituals of restraint and its principles, is a key to wisdom, leadership and success. This is an inconvenient truth because so many who have cast their lot in with the camp of the secular fundamentalists, America’s current government-sponsored religion, are dismayed to discover the very real and practical benefits of the twin Biblical faiths, Judaism and Christianity.