The Pyramid of Success
Leviticus 16:1 – 20:27
This week’s Torah portion is full of interesting topics. It discusses Yom Kippur; dietary laws; incest, bestiality, and homosexuality; a number of the Ten Commandments; tattoos; and equal justice under the law.
A discourse of sexual immorality appeals to my puerile brain, but I’m going to instead start with the following quotation and see where it takes me.
but does not bring it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to offer up as a sacrifice to the Lord before the Mishkan of the Lord, this [act] shall be counted for that man as blood he has shed blood, and that man shall be cut off from among his people.” (Lev. 17:3 – 17:4)
The quotation reminds us to be grateful to those who have been kind to us. In the grandest sense—as detailed in the Parsha—God created us, gave/gives us food, took us out of Egypt only a couple chapters ago, etc. We acknowledge this by expressing our thanks, be it through sacrifice in the Tent of Meeting, through prayer, or however.
But this lesson applies equally to the non-spiritual world. Nobody makes it to the top, or even close to the top, without significant help from others—teachers, coaches, mentors, etc. The Parsha suggests that this is especially relevant to the family dynamic. The beginning of the next verse—“in order that the children of Israel should bring their offerings …”—names the Israelites as children and God the parent, thereby suggesting that a similar relationship should unfold among genetic children and parents. Later text reinforces this parallel: “Every man shall fear his mother and his father, and you shall observe My Sabbaths. I am the Lord, your God,” (Lev. 19:3) and “For any man who curses his father or his mother shall be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon himself” (Lev. 20:9).
Most readily apparent is the lesson that because parents birth, feed, and clothe the child, parents are owed a sacrificial ox, lamb, or goat, or the modern day equivalent.
Children should certainly give thanks to their parents (**note to self**), but sacrificial lambs and Mother’s Day flowers aside, parents should derive satisfaction simply from the successes and prosperity of their children. On the most basic level, it is the combined genes of the parents that have built the child and his talents. But it is also true that the success of the child reflects on the continuing actions of the parents. Victory of the child on the athletic field, in the classroom, in business, wherever, is often the product of extra efforts of the parent. For this reason, the parent should never be jealous of the child’s success, but instead, the parent should be the child’s biggest booster, realizing that any awards won for by the child translate (except in rare cases) to the parent.
In many respects, this is the story of the American immigrant. First generation immigrants often struggled to reach the stereotypical definitions of success, but their efforts often paved the road for later generations. To reiterate—but in slightly different language—success is not built in one generation; it is the product of generations of family members working toward similar goals. Parents would do well to take the same pride and happiness in their child’s accomplishment as they would their own success. And the child would do well to acknowledge that his efforts simply represent the highest point on a growing pyramid.
On that note, happy upcoming Mother’s Day!