Three Texts for Changing the World

Image:  “I Can Change the World, Every Child Counts” painted on a schoolhouse in South Africa. (henkpijper/pixabay.)

Do you want to change the world? Here are some texts for help and encouragement. One is ancient, one medieval, one modern.

Anxiety in one’s heart saddens it, but a good word gladdens it. – Proverbs 12:25

It is tempting to criticize. However, when we scold and scold without a word of encouragement, no one has the heart to keep on going. Therefore it is important to to put as much energy into encouragement as it is into criticism. Reward good behavior, always. Encourage any move in the right direction.

Proper generosity involves not only money and goods, but also power . . . Generosity with power entails using [the power] bestowed [on us] by God to help those in need.  – Rabbi Abraham Maimuni in The Guide to Serving God.

It is not enough to give to good causes. It is also important to share power. Sometimes that means listening instead of talking, encouraging instead of criticising, serving instead of insisting always on leading.

We must continue to remind ourselves that in a free society all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible. – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

It is easy to point at others and say, “That person is doing a bad thing!” We must also look within and say, “What am I doing that contributes to the bad situation? How can I contribute to real change?” Some are guilty, yes, but all of us are responsible to make things better.

 

 

Advertisements

The Three Books of Solomon

Image: Woman reading a book. Photo by Lucia Parillo via pixabay.com.

The tradition teaches that Solomon is the author of three books of the Bible. The first is the book Shir haShirim [Song of Songs] a love song written when he was a young man. The second one, Mishlei [Proverbs] was supposedly the product of middle age. The third is Qohelet [Ecclesiastes] which he wrote as an old man who had become cynical. As a description of the contents, it works. In fact, all three books were likely written or assembled long after Solomon’s death. We know this because there is Aramaic in each, and that language did not come into use among Jews until after the Babylonian Exile in the sixth century BCE.

Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes are read for Passover and Sukkot, respectively, but Proverbs does not have a fixed use in the Jewish calendar. The most famous part of the book is Eshet Chayil [Woman of Valor], Proverbs 31: 10-31, which is read or sung in some Jewish homes on Shabbat evening.

A capable wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
    she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
    and provides food for her household
    and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
    and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor,
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
    for all her household are clothed in crimson.
She makes herself coverings;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the city gates,
    taking his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she supplies the merchant with sashes.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her happy;
    her husband too, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the city gates.

 

Texts for Father’s Day

Here in the U.S., today is Father’s Day. Some texts from the Bible:

Honor your father and your mother – Exodus 20:12

Hear, my son, the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; For they shall be a chaplet of grace upon your head, and chains about your neck. – Proverbs 1:8-9

He who fears Adonai has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. – Proverbs 14:26

As a father has compassion on his children, so Adonai has compassion on those who fear him. – Psalm 103:13

And from the Talmud:

Our Rabbis taught: A father has the following obligations towards his son: to circumcise him, to redeem him, if he is a firstborn, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a craft or a trade. And there are some who say that he must also teach him how to swim.– Kiddushin 29a

Our Rabbis taught: What is reverence and what is honor? Reverence means that the child must neither stand nor sit in the parent’s place, may not contradict a parent’s words, nor do anything that harms a parent’s interests. Honor means that a child must give a parent food, drink, and clothing, and provide transport. – Kiddushin 31b

The folk saying goes: What the child says out in the street comes either from his father or his mother. – Sukkah 56b

Do you have a favorite text about fathering or parenthood?