The Passover Seder with its famous four questions is behind us. Now I’d like to ask you four questions.
Have you ever…
(i) caught yourself speaking or acting just the way your parents did?
(ii) experienced hostile emotions or expressed negativity about a parent?
(iii) been slightly embarrassed to catch yourself imitating an expression or gesture of a celebrity?
Your ‘Yes!’ reminds us of the mysterious power our parents exert upon our souls and the extent to which influential people we encounter impact our inner natures.
Our susceptibility to being influenced in this fashion can harm our lives because few of the occasions to which we need to respond grant us the luxury of lengthy contemplation.
Whether in professional, social, or family settings, our instinctive reaction to challenging circumstances is unlikely to be the most productive one.
We regularly react to events more because of how we’ve been shaped rather than by carefully analyzing them. How do we overcome this?
As usual, I seek guidance in a verse from Scripture:
Obadiah feared God greatly. And Ahab summoned Obadiah
who was in charge of the household.
Or wait, is it this verse?
Ahab summoned Obadiah who was in charge of the household;
and Obadiah feared God greatly.
Which version do you think is the real one? (I told you there were four questions.) Shouldn’t the verse first introduce Obadiah as God-fearing before relating how his boss summoned him?
Yet, it is my second version that is true. (I Kings 18:3) This leaves us wondering why we’re told Obadiah feared God only after Ahab summoned him.
Ancient Jewish wisdom fills in the missing pieces. In response to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel’s wickedness, God inflicted famine upon their land. Ahab called Obadiah and said to him, “Even the wicked Laban was blessed by having God-fearing Jacob in his home.” Laban actually announces his recognition of this reality.
…I have discovered through divination that God has blessed me because of you.
King Ahab continues, “Evidently you are not righteous because God is clearly not blessing me because of you.”
Therefore, the verse concludes:
…and Obadia feared God greatly.
God withheld blessing from Ahab because of his own shortcomings, not because of Obadiah’s.
Ancient Jewish wisdom contrasts righteous Obadiah with wicked Esau. Esau, raised by his saintly parents, Isaac and Rebecca, nonetheless became wicked. Meanwhile Obadiah abandoned the pagan Edomites who raised him, converted to Judaism, found himself serving the loathsome Ahab and Jezebel, yet remained righteous.
Our backgrounds influence us one way or the other. Either we rebel against them determined to be nothing like, say, our parents or we subconsciously emulate them. Esau rebelled against the virtue in which he was raised. Obadiah was immune to the early influences in his life.
An important difference is hinted at in their names. Esau in Hebrew means ‘ready-made.’ His name reflects his tendency to act instinctively and do his own thing. Acting instinctively of course is just another way of saying acting entirely subserviently or rebelliously to earlier influences.
Obadiah’s name in Hebrew means serving God. This reflects his tendency to evaluate his choices according to a Divine matrix and explains his rescuing a hundred prophets from Jezebel and saving their lives. (I Kings 18:4)
The key is that each time we act according to the Divine matrix rather than responding to our instinctive feelings, we increase our future ability to respond to coming circumstances correctly.
Developing quick but accurate reactions is enormously valuable in our business lives and often spells the difference between financial success and stagnation. Our best-selling book, Thou Shall Prosper-The Ten Commandments for Making Money has helped bring financial abundance to so many precisely because it teaches you how to change not only what you do but what you are. In ten powerfully transforming chapters this book crystalizes the tips and tools of ancient Jewish wisdom helping people of every background, whether employed, seeking employment, or entrepreneur, to generate more income sooner rather than later. We are offering it at a special price this week in the hopes that you will gladly pay more taxes next year due to greater income (rather than higher confiscatory rates).
Read the most recent Ask the Rabbi question and answer here
My husband’s father recently died. Because of his mother’s health/physical impairments, she needs assistance going to bed and getting up in the morning. She wants to stay in Michigan half a year and go to Georgia with her daughters for the other half of the year (where she is currently until spring). When she is in Michigan, my husband has to stay overnight with her. This was the situation from June – November, and frankly, it didn’t make me (his wife) a happy camper. We finally compromised and he got 2 nights home with me, and 5 nights with his mom.
I understand it was difficult for her to lose her husband, but she didn’t seem to care that essentially I was losing my husband as well. Due to her physical limitations, she cannot move in with us. Even though we have a few more months before she wants to come back, what are his/our obligations in light of the Bible to her? My selfish side wants to say, stay in Georgia. But it is his Mom.
Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE
This week’s Susan’s Musings: Supporting A Christian Family on Holocaust Remembrance Day
‘Coincidentally,’ I became aware of the plight of the Romeike family on Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2008, the Romeike family fled to the United States because their desire to homeschool their children ran counter to the law in their native Germany. Threatened with escalating fines and the probable removal of their children from their home…READ MORE