Dysfunction Is The Starting Point
A very smart speech today in synagogue by Rabbi Haim Ovadia.
He connected to this week’s reading from Genesis in the Torah.
It was a commentary about our forefathers and mothers and what the stories in the Bible teach us.
As we know, these people while righteous and holy, were not perfect people or families.
Thinking about these, some examples that come to mind about the many tests, challenges, and tragedies in their lives:
- Adam and Eve eating the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden
- Noah getting drunk and his son, Ham, seeing his nakedness and telling his brothers
- Abraham and Sarah’s doubting (i.e. laughing) that G-d would give them a child
- Isaac lying to Avimelech about Rivkah being his sister (similar to what Abraham said about Sarah)
- Jacob buying the birthright and stealing the blessing from Esau
- Shimon and Levi killing the people of Shechem for Hamor raping their sister
- Joseph’s brothers being jealous of him and throwing him in the pit and selling him into slavery
- Judah sleeping with Tamer, the wife of his firstborn
And so on.
Rabbi Ovadia said we should keep 4 things in mind about the Biblical figures and families to learn for our own:
1) Context — There is a context to what we do. We all have histories that involve difficulties, challenges, illness, abuse, PTSD, and so on. The things we do and how we react later in life are anchored in this context.
2) Dysfunction — Every family (and I would add person, organization, and institution) is dysfunctional. There is no perfection out there (except G-d). Functional would mean like a computer, we input-process-output towards a certain function. However, as people, we are not automatons, but instead work out our dysfunction through our striving to love, have relationships, learn and grow.
3) Responsibility — Whatever our challenges and dysfunctions, we are responsible for what we do — our actions. We can’t just blame history or others. Our role is to face up to our lot in life and take responsibility for what we do. It our life and circumstances to make or break us.
4) Communication — In dealing with life and it’s challenges, communication is key to dealing with things. I would argue that communication is just a part of many critical success factors like trust, determination, hard work, emotional intelligence, being giving, integrity, etc. But certainly, communication is a key aspect in how we work out our issues with others and try to build function from inherent dysfunction.
The honestly of the Bible in telling us the flaws of it’s heroes and heroines — our ancestors — is one of the things that make it such a source of wisdom for us as well as demonstrating the truthfulness of it being G-d given to us.
The bible doesn’t sugarcoat who we are and what we have to deal with — it is the Book of G-d that is a roadmap for us to learn from and do good with in our own lives. ;-)
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)