prison bars

Choosing Your Prison

It is worthwhile to elaborate a bit on this important concept of free will, which the Rambam calls “an important principle and a pillar of all Torah and mitzvos.”

He states: “Do not let the thought cross your mind, that which the foolish ones among the nations and even ignorant Jews claim, that Hashem predetermined and decreed upon every person what he will be — a righteous person or a wicked one. It is not so — for every single person can be either a tzaddik like Moshe Rabbeinu, or a wicked man like Yeravam. There is no one pulling him in either direction. It is each person’s own choice to pick the way of life he will follow.”

-from “A Mussar Thought for the Day,” p.14
Commentary for Monday on Parashas Vayeishev
A Daily Dose of Torah

So much for Calvinism. We can’t claim that God preselected us to be good or to be evil. We get to choose who we are and we get to make different choices over time. That’s miserable and encouraging all at once. It’s miserable because we human beings all by ourselves are prone to willfulness, weakness, and error. But it’s also hopeful in that we can strive to overcome our faults and to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday.

One of the recurring themes in the various incarnations of “Star Trek” is that mankind continually works to improve itself, with the presupposition that humans have the moral framework and ability to do so independently. However, both Judaism and Christianity maintain that we are unable to elevate ourselves spiritually to any degree at all without relying on God. This does not negate free will, since we must choose to either obey or disobey God in the different and varied areas of our lives.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)

Maybe that’s the answer to this sometimes frustrating statement of Paul’s. It may seem like temptation is irresistible, but the circumstances tempting us are the same for a lot of people, even if we’re only aware of our own individual experience. We can either rely on ourselves and fail or rely on God and have the hope of success, and God is faithful.

It’s when we assume that we’re helpless victims, either of God’s “Divine Plan” to choose only some for salvation and to let the rest burn, or of our own “sin nature” or “evil inclination” that the following happens:

So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

1 Corinthians 5:4-5

Joseph the SlaveNot that God necessarily gives up on us, but He certainly can give us enough rope to hang ourselves with, if we so choose. Then, when swinging in the breeze, if we’re still alive, we can call out to Him.

But even resisting temptation is no guarantee of an easy or good life.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

Genesis 39:11-20

Joseph resisted the repeated temptation to have an illicit affair with his master’s wife. He was blameless and still ended up in prison. How much more so do we, who are not blameless, risk “prison” of one form or another, even after we cry out to God and begin to learn to resist our own temptations and to strive to be better servants of Hashem.

The worst prison is when G-d locks you up. He doesn’t need guards or cells or stone walls. He simply decides that, at this point in life, although you have talent, you will not find a way to express it. Although you have wisdom, there is nobody who will listen. Although you have a soul, there is nowhere for it to shine.

And you scream, “Is this why you sent a soul into this world? For such futility?”

That is when He gets the tastiest essence of your juice squeezed out from you.

(Likutei Sichot vol. 23, pp. 163–165; Shlach 5732:1; 5th night of Chanukah 5720:4.)

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Invisible Prison”

If God puts us in “prison,” isn’t it what we deserve? Why should we complain (although we invariably do)? In sin, we are slaves but slaves who have deliberately put ourselves in the hand of our master. In choosing to not sin, we are deciding to be slaves of a different Master, one who loves our soul, one who desires the best for us. As Rabbi Freeman suggests, the prison God incarcerates us in is designed not to confine and demoralize us, but to drive us to be the very best we can be.

PrisonWe can either choose the evil prison where we trap ourselves and reap only what we deserve, or allow God to “imprison” us and have the hope of being led to a better life.

And David said to Gad, “I am exceedingly distressed. Let us fall into Hashem’s hand, for His mercies are abundant, but let me not fall into human hands.”

II Samuel 24:14

This verse is the opening line of the Tachanun prayer. Dovid HaMelach had sinned by taking a census of the Jews in a manner contrary to that prescribed by the Torah. Hashem, through the agency of the prophet Gad, gave Dovid HaMelech a choice of three calamities, one of which he and his people would have to suffer in atonement for his sin: seven years of hunger, three months of defeat in battle, or a deadly three-day plague. Dovid chose the last, because that one would be inflicted directly by God, Whose mercy is ever present even when His wrath is aroused. His choice proved to be the correct one, for God mercifully halted the plague after a duration of only half a day.

-from “A Closer Look at the Siddur,” pp.15-16
Commentary for Monday on Parashas Vayeishev
A Daily Dose of Torah

Joseph’s incarceration is recorded in this week’s Torah Portion but not its resolution. Joseph was made a slave and then a prisoner in order to accomplish God’s plan, not just for Joseph or even just for Egypt, but for the entire world. No doubt you already know how the story of Joseph continues, how he was released from prison to interpret a dream of Pharaoh’s, and as a result, how Joseph was made a ruler in Egypt second only to Pharaoh. From prisoner to prince in one stroke.

Very few of us will have such an experience, yet it would be enough if God were to judge us and not human beings. God is incapable of treating us with malice and His rulings are truly impartial and fair, though they can be harsh.

When you look at that imperfect and sinful wreck in the mirror each morning, are you not much harder on yourself than God would be? Doesn’t God look at us with pity and compassion when most people, even those closest to us, react out of hurt and anger?

A basic Torah principle is that when correcting someone, we need to do so with a sense of love and compassion. When you speak in a blaming manner, the message you give is not a loving one.

If there is a specific person you tend to speak to in a blaming manner, be resolved to speak to more pleasantly.

(For a series of probing questions on this topic, see Rabbi Pliskin’s “Gateway to Self Knowledge,” pp.135-7)

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift #189: “Replace Blame with Compassion”

Would that other people or even we ourselves were as merciful and compassionate as God when we fail and seek to make amends.

compassionBut coming back to the matter of free will, our actions and the consequences rest on our shoulders. No one else is to blame, though we can hope and pray for mercy. In the end, people are not always merciful, but even when we do not deserve it, God is compassionate.

The Tzemach Tzedek writes: The love expressed in “Beside You I wish for nothing,” (Psalm 73:25) means that one should desire nothing other than G-d, not even “Heaven” or “earth” i.e. Higher Gan Eden and Lower Gan Eden, for these were created with a mere yud…. The love is to be directed to Him alone, to His very Being and Essence. This was actually expressed by my master and teacher (the Alter Rebbe) when he was in a state of d’veikut and he exclaimed as follows:

I want nothing at all! I don’t want Your gan eden, I don’t want Your olam haba… I want nothing but You alone.

from “Today’s Day”
Wednesday, Kislev 18, 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

Whatever prison you find yourself in, seek God alone. Everything else will take care of itself.

16 thoughts on “Choosing Your Prison”

  1. James wrote, However, both Judaism and Christianity maintain that we are unable to elevate ourselves spiritually to any degree at all without relying on God. This does not negate free will, since we must choose to either obey or disobey God in the different and varied areas of our lives.

    In a simple comparison, I see this similar to our own parent and child relationship. Children are born with the genetic disposition of their parents. A child born of an elite athlete has the likelihood of being an elite athlete. If, as that child grows, the child takes hold of this talent and allows the parent to help, the athletic talent can be cultivated. It is up to the child, however, to be willing to do his or her own work because talent alone will only take the child so far. Hard work and choices reflecting the desire to harness the predisposed genetic disposition will cultivate the inner talent to greatness. However, the talent alone, when combined with poor choices will not produce the results of an elite athlete.

    If we are truly born with free will, yet created in Hashem’s image, we can choose to cultivate the inner goodness we have inherited from Hashem. Not relying on Hashem to cultivate this talent within us is like the child that chooses not to follow their athletic parent’s advice.

  2. How many children have chosen to rebel against their parents just because they could, Terry. That’s the nature of being human. It takes dedication and effort to follow the good wishes of our Father in Heaven.

  3. Whatever the talents and gifts that we are disposed to, without the appropriate training, we cannot even know what is good or bad, or that we have a freedom of choice that leads to outcomes we didn’t foresee.

    Hopefully, after making a poor choice, we are then told by kind and wise parents how we chose wrongly, and how to choose aright, so that the outcome may be better.

    Even so, we may choose to do as we are taught, and find that other people’s freewill choices have impinged on us, and that we need to overcome what other people’s choices have done to our simple passageway from point A to point B, traveling instead throughout a landscape of obstacles that have been raised in our way.

    Joseph’s journey from the pit to the palace was created by other people’s choices as much as his own choices to make the best of things as he was moved like a chess piece at the will of others. Joseph chose to do his best at every task he was set by first choosing to honour G-d in his life, and then acting in all things as if he were doing each task for G-d, and not for whomever claimed to be in charge of him.

    This cannot have been easy, to accept his current state and circumstances, and to choose to see them only as the setting in which he worked for G-d, doing all that he could do, and leaving the end result to G-d. Joseph must have spent a great deal of time asking G-d to make him able to choose to do as he did, in patient endurance and willingness, day on day, for years of captivity, before the pieces were in place for G-d to move in Joseph’s life.

    We cannot always make good choices by ourselves, nor overcome our circumstances, but we do have the guidance of the Ruach haKodesh if we will listen to it, and the more we choose to react to every point of decision as G-d would have us do so, hearing the advice of the Ruach, and walking in obedience to that Voice, and to Torah, the better our choices will be, and those actions arising from each choice will be used by G-d to further His purpose in our lives, even if the outward seeming of our circumstances seem bleak indeed.

  4. I’m reminded of the parable of the prodigal son. He made very bad choices and indeed, he made those choices into habits. It was only when he was completely destitute as a consequence of those choices that he decided to go back to his father and ask to be a worker and not a son. The results were spectacular. However, because the parable is rather short, it doesn’t examine the extreme difficulty this son had in overcoming his situation, his pride, and his fear.

  5. Very nice comments section. Excellent “topper” at the ending, Terry:
    If we are truly born with free will, yet created in Hashem’s image, we can choose to cultivate the inner goodness we have inherited from Hashem. Not relying on Hashem to cultivate this talent within us is like the child that chooses not to follow their athletic parent’s advice.

    To build on that and what James and Questor have said, one can also do as the parents have required and taught and still suffer (or miss out on greater goods the parents [not HaShem, rather more like the athletic parents, human parents] might have foreseen if remembering their own parents* [each and both of them] and not only their own ways). It can be when the pain becomes very great (whether one is destitute or not destitute) that something new or deeper is learned, a course correction because of the greater Parent. A loving Parent won’t fail to impart wisdom (to one who asks for it), in due time, “how to choose aright” — because “without the appropriate training, we cannot even know what is good or bad, or that we have a freedom of choice.” I could quote the whole rest of your comment too, Questor. [Note: I don’t mean to detract from it in any way — exactly, and I do mean exactly, as it stands.]

    We can know we have some kind of freedom of choice and yet be blind to some choices or areas (sometimes by intention of the parent(s) and sometimes by the parents own blindness), strongholds we even thought were good or just the way it is from our parents (even if we knew they weren’t perfect but didn’t see it in a larger way). With education in godliness, we still haven’t necessarily been instructed in all ways kindly and truthfully, “so, we may choose to do as we are taught, and find that other people’s [those before us in deed as well as (or only/mostly) in thought or philosophy] freewill choices have impinged on us, and that we need to overcome what other people’s choices have done…”

    * This is an idea of one help in keeping perspective. This probably won’t be very helpful in a lot of families, and we also have history to think about (such as cruelties and oppression of the past).

    I didn’t mean to end with this, but here is what just now came to mind:
    NET Bible —
    By saying this you testify
    against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets.
    Young’s Literal Translation —
    So that you testify to yourselves, that ye are sons of them who did murder the prophets…

  6. Although this (above quotation) has been used traditionally as judgment in the sense of verdict (end of story, Next), I’m seeing it as evaluation (Learn something)! That’s why I bolded the “to” over the “against” — although the result CAN be against. There is a story where J’shua really sounds like he’s condemning someone (or a group he’s talking to, anyone among those hearing him), and then he says what he means is that a person who doesn’t get the point (grasped and internalized) will be condemned [or not wake up or, in the vein of this meditation topic, not grow].

    It doesn’t have to be so extreme as overcoming some blatantly murderous past (of parents or ancestors or venues of dissemination one has not rethought). That’s just the example I [and we] have available for quoting as illustration.

    And, at times, all we have the power to do is change what we think and say, or even pray, or teach or preach [or accuse or cease as to accusations (what is true and what is fair as to observation being what matter in reality)] and witness.

  7. I truly wish that we were able to change what we think and say and do before it trips us up, but the habits of a lifetime of bad thinking, bad speaking and bad doing are painfully repetitious in their effect on ourselves and others.

    Even having the desire to think/say/do well is not possible for us on our own. This is the key to why the New Covenant is required for G-d to be able to redeem mankind in Yeshua. If G-d doesn’t intervene, we’re doomed as a race, and probably most of us as individuals. But G-d does intervene, may His Name be blessed, and does so the most for those that are trying to do something, anything, in the right manner according to the oracles entrusted to the Israelites. And in Yeshua, Abba gives anyone who will take it the gift of the Ruach haKodesh and redemption in our Savior, but our lives simply do not magically change. Abba wants those who choose Him over themselves, His will over our will for love of Him, and those that come to Him He does help.

    We were essentially unprogrammed at the time of the fall of Adam. The only rule was an easy one to keep, as Adam and Eve were innocent of knowledge as to what a free will can do. Had they made the right choice, Adam and Eve might have been taught by Abba Himself, as He had planned…if they could simply do as He asked. They couldn’t, and neither can we, even though we desire to be like Abba wants us to be.

    Most people do not like the idea of submission to another’s will, even if that will is going to produce what we would want most…a happy, peaceful, loving successful life. We were designed by Abba to be self-oriented, rebellious creatures with tons of curiosity…made in His image as perhaps He once was when figuring out what He wanted…I have always assumed that G-d is a growing learning Individual…just the only one like Him, and thus having to figure everything out by trial and error for Himself, before He even created a thing.

    But our design was to enable us to choose to learn His way over our own way, with the minimum amount of pain and suffering possible in a free will universe. We have all been badly taught, and are trying to fix ourselves, but without G-d’s help in the matter we take the first step toward change and fall on our faces. Yet, if we ask Him to change us to what He wants for us, and take a step in the general direction of betterness, G-d takes that as our step of faith, and helps us to become a little different, a little changed.

    One day, it will be imprinted in our soul, and it will no longer be a matter of think/speak/do getting in our way. All of us would be delighted if we could just have that done and over, and no longer end up hurting ourselves and others by accident. It will come to us eventually, and we will live in the Kingdom, and see people actually growing up with the guidelines for life built into them, and yet some of those people, according to prophecy, will still choose their own will over G-d’s will for them, just as Angels in the past have gotten off track, and fallen from their first estate. Even with the Torah written into us, our human nature can get in the way, and is prophesied for some to do just that.

    In the meantime, though, it is very difficult for even those of us who understand what is going on to comply with G-d’s will, even though we know it would be best for us, and would make us the most happy and satisfied of individuals. In the prison of the life we are in…the who we are, and the where we are, and the person that we currently are attempting to be better than is a long enduring of one step forward, and two or three back, before we get up and try again. But as we try, if we will simply ask to be made more like the person G-d envisions us to be, the easier it seems to get to survive the continual endurance of positive change.

  8. @Marleen: I agree. What we read as condemnation may have instead been what some say is a “call to action.” I’m reminded of the Pentecost event and the crowd’s response to Peter’s subsequent message:

    Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

    Acts 2:37-39 (NASB)

    Even under the worst circumstances, as long as you’re alive, you can repent.

    @Questor: In today’s (Sunday) morning meditation, I talk about repentance being a process rather than an event, and one that takes a lot of practice. It’s terribly frustrating if we believe that repentance must always take place all at once in an single instant and then be permanent, especially when dealing with habitual sins. It’s no wonder if people give up on repentance and even on God if they think they have to suddenly and permanently shake off sin and lead a perfectly holy life. Repentance is a struggle with sin, yourself, and with God. Thankfully, God is patient as long as we continue the struggle.

  9. From the opening meditation: [Joseph] was blameless and still ended up in prison. How much more so do we, who are not blameless, risk “prison” of one form or another, even after we cry out to God and begin to learn to resist our own temptations and to strive to be better servants of Hashem.


    If God puts us in “prison,” isn’t it what we deserve?
    [End Quoting (of James)]

    Joseph wasn’t/isn’t J’shua. So, either he wasn’t blameless or it doesn’t fit to say that, other than him (or him and J’shua), being imprisoned is deserved for people — due to blame — who are in “prison”/prison. Or, third option, Joseph is an archetypal/mythical story and not a real person (many people actually believe such a viewpoint). I DO think he was blameless (as can others be, even from youth like he was) [which is not to say I haven’t heard people blame him for sharing his dreams, which were prophetic; we’ve already seen prophets aren’t generally liked in their time]. Maybe the blame, then (if there has to be blame, other than the fallen world constantly offering theories and ideologies), is on Jacob and his wives/wife (even Grandfather Laban) — but the lessons in wisdom would be for Joseph (he gets to observe as well as feel the pain of this life [learn what this world IS like] for a reason).

    God could put Joseph in prison although and maybe even because he was innocent. Joseph doesn’t just see it as something people did to him (while they did do it to him, subjecting him to injustice). He says God meant it for good. J’shua tells the people of his time to save themselves from an evil generation. He also tells some people — maybe some he had spoken to before, pointing out their acknowleged lineage, or maybe other people already further in the wrong direction — that they are something worse, children of their “father” (not the heavenly Father), verging on, if not already, hopeless; it seems a person becomes worse when they can’t see to correct for what came before (clinging to what should “work” for them or “should” be right” to them). People can directly choose badly themselves, but it is also necessary to weed out unidentified mistakes that if not named as incorrect are paths of treachery.

    I agree, James, that Calvinism in the sense that anyone is picked out for damnation no matter what or a sinful life just because is “out the window” so to speak because of free will. I don’t, however, agree that bad stuff happens to people definitionally because of sin in them.

    1. @Marleen — Please note that Rav Yeshua is not the only person to be referred to in the scriptures as “blameless”. And Yosef is deemed the archetype of the “suffering servant” Messiah ben-Yosef, which is the role that Rav Yeshua fulfilled 20 centuries ago. Nonetheless, Yosef may be accused rightly of failure to be diplomatic about his prophetic dreams. He also may be excused for this lapse because of his youth and inexperience with people. Similarly, his “tattletale” reportage about his brothers probably could have been handled better, even if his reports were absolutely truthful and not at all intended to be hurtful. Nonetheless, it is not at all uncommon for a child, particularly one who is late in the birth order, who is then given the impression of being the most favored one, to over-react in trying to please his or her parents by “informing” against the small misdeeds of siblings. It is also not uncommon for the siblings to resent it. Is this what we see in Yosef’s story? Normally, such a child may be encouraged to grow out of such immaturity, by patience and training rather than by repeated blaming. We also see in Yosef a talented youth who was forced to learn the hard way that superiorly-talented individuals, or those bearing the stamp of chosen-ness, are not generally appreciated for it and may, in fact, be attacked or persecuted because of it. Even the G-d-given prophetic gift of dream interpretation wasn’t sufficiently impressive to ensure that the wine-steward wouldn’t forget to tell Pharaoh about encountering this amazingly talented prisoner — at least not until Pharoah’s un-interpretable dreams became such a public issue.

      You’re right, though, that some blame attaches to Yacov for his favoritism toward Yosef, in a reflection of his own youthful conflicts with his brother Esav and the favoritism that each of their parents demonstrated toward one of them. And one may justifiably ask if Yosef may be faulted for not communicating with his father for so many years. Could he not have sent a messenger back to Cana’an, at least after he got out of prison and became an important figure in Egypt; or during the years of plentiful harvests? Did he really need to wait for his brothers to show up because of the famine? Is it conceivable that he could have been inhibited by fear that letting his father know his whereabouts might tempt some of his brothers to come all the way to Egypt to try yet again to kill him? Analyzing and evaluating the motives of the players in this drama is not so easy; and it is similarly difficult for any human drama. Hence it is difficult to determine just what actions might be blameworthy and which should be excused due to extenuating circumstance and the benefit of doubt.

  10. I do see in subsequent meditating that you assign sin in Joseph. None is recorded that I recall. Anyway, I still mean to convey the same thing — I’m trying to say that although many Christians and psychologists like to blame people for anything in their lives, it is a mistake to do so. One example of how it’s wrong fits fairly well with your “prison” terminology (as you went on to talk about other kinds). These days, if a couple goes to counseling, and if it is seen that the man is too stubborn to care, the fault is then with the woman who doesn’t leave him and find someone better (or just face the fact he gets to act however he wants because, after all, he can). What are you thinking, that you have anyhthing to say existing in your husband’s life?. [Of course, if she were to leave, this would be what she did wrong.] This is expedient for the counselor who can’t make the man do anything or be honest, etc. So, the woman is seen to have issues (for following Christian teaching).

    To take this further, I once was watching Pat Robertson (decades ago) and heard him take a caller who asked about some behavior of her husband. The callous answer was, “You picked him.” First of all, he doesn’t know she did. He’s applying his myopic world to all people. Second, even if she did (herself) pick him for marriage (while of course he was picking too), it’s no excuse for the man’s behavior — and no reason for another man (even forwarding himself as some awesome authority in teaching) to not care what men do outside of how it might matter to himself. (It’s not like he doesn’t pontificate ad nauseam if he gives a darn. I wonder if it’s how he interacts with his own wife. (You picked me; hush up. Again, there is a wide range of concerns that can be happening, from rudeness or something else at a milder level to violence and wasting money and courting others at another, undermining the raising of children somewhere in there).

    [I know, by the way, that he couldn’t give good advice by taking a call (unless we want to fancy him as a prophet or psychic who works that way). But he was taking such calls and decided to say these things — because Christians like him have it all figured out.]

  11. 1) Grandparents on Jacob’s side of the family too; yes, indeed.

    2) You have murderous brothers, and you’re going to make contact? This is the kind of thing where we turn “not my style” into something else, judgment, law. Maybe he’d figured out his father hadn’t been tremendously wise. Maybe he had decided to be about the Father’s business and bide his time. God had made a way for him (he hadn’t chosen to leave). Remember that even when he encountered his brothers again he tested them before he told them who he was (even though, and because, he was now so powerful). {Oh, okay, now I’ve read the rest of that paragraph.}

    3) The “tattle-tale” topic seems so problematic. I didn’t tell my boys to be tattle-tales or not to be (as this would all feel like an unnecessary imposition). I figured they would know what needs to be told, and some things do need to be told. We actually never had a problem with this. I did have a son who was an observer and analyst (as they all are, but he more so of both pretty constantly). Second to youngest as it turns out, but of the five, not of twelve plus. Many a time he took punishment with everyone else rather than tell on his brother (to their father). In fact, they were all willing to do this. [No doubt, this will now be the wrong thing to do.] These brothers appreciate each other. The middle one told me recently that people often ask him how tough it was to be the middle child or to have so many brothers, and he said this worry sounds stupid because it was and is a good thing.

    The oldest (eightish) once told on his dad (not in the sense of telling on him though). This son had promised his brother next in age a gift, sending him off to find it where he’d told him he’d put it, to get his brother to go away from him. I found out about this when the younger of them came back crying and I asked what was going on. I told the elder he shouldn’t say he’s done or is doing something when he hasn’t/isn’t, to which he said Dad does it all the time. And how do you feel when that happens? The boy never did it again (although the second boy did cry again because his older brother wanted to go do things with older kids at times, which was certainly allowed).

    Finally, I agree that Rav Yeshua is not the only person to be referred to in the scriptures as “blameless”. And Yosef is deemed the archetype of the “suffering servant” Messiah ben-Yosef, which is the role that Rav Yeshua fulfilled 20 centuries ago. As I said, I DO think he was blameless (as can others be, even from youth like he was) and that Yeshua was the very best at it.

    I wouldn’t agree with this writer’s word “taunted” (where I would and did go with tested) but can see why she picked it, and I like a lot of what she said. [And by the time there was a fifth child in our family, he was a lot younger (ten years the junior of the elder). So there was a little of what she reported (near the end, from her experience).]
    Funny how this one ends; I’d skip that last exercise for sure (or explain the problem with it). Plus I’d not be so formal (as I already said), and possibly disturbing, on what to “tattle” about. Accepted kids will know. (That’s my take, and one wouldn’t want to take a chance and be neglectful if doing differently from me seemed needful.)


    This came to me last night. I knew it was fitting, but didn’t know how much so. Specifically, the prophet without honor in his home town came to mind (latter half of the chapter). And I thought Joseph’s family home [not just a house on a lot] was like his home town.

    But when I looked it up today, I saw the odd placement of the particular wording. It looks like the people are listening to him, and then he starts saying offensive things.

  13. I should be clear, I don’t think it’s advisable to “say offensive things.” Looking at this passage, I rethink what some commentaries suggest. They point out that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This is supposed to explain why the people don’t want to listen. But I’m thinking a prophet comes from a place where he/she has seen wrong (so, it’s a little like familiarity fosters something that may look like contempt in the prophet toward the place he/she came from for the reasons that were seen). But the place gets a warning (as painful as it it).

    For some reason, Capernum got some miracles while Jesus wasn’t the kind of physician his town wanted to them. Maybe the contempt goes both ways but for different reasons. One way is contempt for sin, the other is contempt for lack of power or status or readiness to lower the boom or hand out favors. So, Jesus knew specific things about these particular people and warned them or tried to teach them something. [Now, elsewhere, he indicated one place didn’t suffer more for being worse. Still, he offered a real message here.]

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