Rabbi Eldad Zamir
Former shaliach in Cape Town (1997 -1998)
Currently Senior Instructor at the Nativ ’Giyur” program in the IDF
G-d Punishes Sons for the Sins of Their Fathers
This week’s parasha tells the story of the golden calf that the children of Israel made when Moshe did not come down Mount Sinai at the time he was supposed to (according to their calculation).
Moshe got angry but G-d became even angrier so in the end Moshe asked G-d to forgive the children of Israel. Moshe mentioned to G-d that one of His characteristics is that G-d is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in kindness and truth. At the end Moshe mentioned another attribute of G-d is that G-d punishes sons for the sins of their fathers.
This characteristic is very strange. As we know, it is written in the book of D’varim (24:16) that fathers won’t be punished for the sins of their sons and sons won’t be punished for the sins of their fathers, rather each one will be punished for his own sin.
The Rabbis explain that the decision to punish sons for their father’s sins happens when the sons carry on doing the bad deeds of their fathers. But the question still remains: if the sons are continuing the sins of their father, they actually should be punished for what they are doing, not because of the fact that their father sinned.
It looks as though we are not talking about a punishment here but we are actually dealing with the way reality and the world works. Tragic results always come from a sin.
Generally, people think that when they have an internal struggle it is their problem and no-one else’s. We are the ones who are suffering from the results of eating too much, getting angry easily, wasting our time on unnecessary things or being too materialistic etc. We tend to forget that by setting an example to our children or any one else around us, they will adopt all bad habits and as much as we talk and preach to them, it wont help. As much as we wish for our children to be better than us, it will never work if we don’t set the right example.
This is the real and unpreventable punishment when a father sees his son getting punished for cheating others, getting drunk or becoming addicted to drugs. The father can only blame himself for the bad example he set his child.
On the other hand, if someone sets a good example, the pasuk says that he is the preserver of kindness for thousands of generation. His reward will be to see honest, kind and good descendants coming from him.
Please G-d we will find the right way and set a good example for our children. Please G-d we will enjoy and be proud of the generations that follow us.