In this second parashah of the annual Torah reading cycle, we read about one of the best known biblical stories, one which is found in nearly every civilization: the Flood.
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God is fed up with the evil things mankind has been doing and finds Noah to be the only righteous man, so he tells Noah to build an ark and that he and his family will collect all the animals of the earth to save them from a flood God will send. The flood comes, the people are destroyed, and after about a year or so Noah and his family, as well as the animals that were saved, can come out of the ark and repopulate the earth.
The lineage of the sons of Noah is given, leading to the story of the Tower of Babel. The parashah ends with the lineage from Noah’s son, Shem, to Abram (not yet called Abraham) and his brothers, and the names of the wives they took while they were still living in Ur.
Here are a few interesting notes about the flood:
- Before the flood there was no rain;
- Before the flood people and animals were herbivores; and
- Noah didn’t have one pair of every kind of animal: he had one pair of unclean animals but 7 pairs of clean ones.
We all know this story and I feel led to talk about something that is a lesson we can learn from it regarding parenting skills.
In Chapter 9, we read how Noah, drunk from wine, passed out and was in a compromising position, meaning he was not just “four sheets to the wind”, but he was also butt naked. Now Ham, the youngest son, sees this and laughs about it with his brothers. Instead of showing respect for his father as he should have and do what his older brothers did (which was to cover their father), he made a joke about it.
For this show of disrespect, he was cursed by Noah and from his line of descendants, we have the perpetual enemies of the Jewish people.
I read in my Chumash that Noah may have become drunk because this was the first wine ever made, and Noah was ignorant of the intoxicating effects of it. Personally, I don’t by that for a moment. What I see in this part of the parashah is a lesson for all of us, and especially for those who have children still living with them.
What we do as parents, whether on purpose or accidentally, will be seen, remembered and probably repeated by our children. We shape them with everything we do and say, and if we don’t show them how to respect and compassionately treat others, they will grow up and have a very difficult time in society.
Parenting is the greatest challenge anyone can face. Besides the handicap we all face, which is either trying to be like or be unlike our own parents, the lessons that were imprinted on us from the moment we were born are not only difficult to overcome but sometimes nearly impossible to recognize.
My mother was a strict disciplinarian and believed in corporal punishment, but my father did not. Consequently, there were arguments between them and often I felt this was my fault. Children always think it is their fault when their parents are arguing, especially if it is over something that has to do with the child. I remember sometimes my Dad taking me to the garage, slapping his belt on something and telling me to cry out, so that my mother was satisfied and he was, too; obviously, I thought that was a really good compromise.
Noah’s actions resulted in Ham being cursed and his descendants, for all time, serving his brothers. Now, of course, Ham isn’t blameless, and the fathers can’t be held totally responsible for their son’s sins (the Bible tells us this in Ezekiel 18), but we can’t totally absolve parents of responsibility for what their children do because we, as parents, are the ones who are responsible to train them.
In today’s world, mostly in the last 40 years or so, parents have lost track of their obligation to properly train their children by wanting to be friends to their children instead of parents. They try protecting them from stress and problems, tell them they are OK no matter what they do, and even deny that the children are “problem children.”
How many times have you seen a news report where a young man has brutally attacked someone and the police report that he is well known for doing this, yet the mother says her boy is a good boy? Parents who enable their children and don’t have the time to spend with them because they are so tired from working has led to a society of uncaring, discompassionate and sinful children. And they grow up teaching their kids the lessons their parents taught them.
This has resulted in our society becoming what it is today: composed of self-centered, ignorant and overly sensitive youth who feel entitled to whatever they want. If I want something, not only am I entitled to it but you have to make sure I get it. And if you say something that bothers me, you are wrong; it doesn’t matter if it is true or if you are saying it for my own good, if I don’t like to hear it, you are wrong.
The world demands people to speak compassionately, but it doesn’t want to listen compassionately,
I will not delve into all the different proverbs about how the wise person receives criticism well because we all know that is true. The way we tell people something that might be distasteful to them should be done with respect and compassion, and when someone tells us something about ourselves, we should listen with respect and compassion, understanding that if they say something cruel or nasty or just too frankly, maybe they are having a hard time, too.
Parents influence their children, who influence not just their children, but every single person they will ever meet for the rest of their lives. The way we treat each other is something like a geometric progression, growing and spreading out like hametz in the dough. If my parents don’t teach me respect, then I will not respect others and my children probably will live the same way. As will their children, as will theirs, ad infinitum or until someone breaks the mold.
Maybe this is why God told Moses that he will punish the children for the sins of their parents down to the third or fourth generation. I think God isn’t saying that the children will be caused to sin, but that their parent’s sins will be learned by them and this might take three or four generations before the cycle can be broken.
Always be aware of how you treat your children, as well as when they see you interacting with other people; listen as you would want to be heard, and if you know you have bad habits you have picked up from your parents, try to overcome them.
Remember all that God has done for you and always try to act in a way that will please him because although the third or fourth generation will suffer for your sins, he also told Moses that he will have compassion on those that obey him to the thousandth generation.
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I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!