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Terah, Father of the Famous Father – Abraham
“Why are you laughing at me”?
How I started to study this story of Terah interested me. I remember reading it years ago when I first read the Bible cover to cover. Yesterday when I went to the book of Genesis to look for it, I did not find it. Everything he said about Terah involved genealogy. I thought I was imagining myself reading it or mixing it up with another story. When I looked it up online I found it was in the Midrash. I guess it’s an old Jewish form of homily embedded in the text. The Midrash regards Terah as evil. (For example, Numbers Rabbah 19:1; 19:33.) There is also a reference in the book of Joshua to Abraham’s father being an idol worshiper. I don’t remember if this story was included in the Bible text I read, but I think so. I want to figure out this little mystery, so any input would be appreciated. Either way, I hope it’s a valid story and even if it isn’t, it will still serve the purpose of this study on fatherhood.
Terah left once and left Abraham to take care of the store. A woman came with a plate of flour and asked Abraham to offer it to the idols. Abraham took a stick, broke the idols and put the stick in the hand of the biggest idol. When Terah returned, he asked Abraham to explain what he had done. Abraham told Terah that the idols were fighting each other and the biggest was breaking the others with the staff. “Why are you laughing at me? Terah exclaimed, “Have they knowledge? Abraham replied, “Listen to what you say!” Terah then delivered Abraham to King Nimrod for punishment. (Genesis Rabbah 38:13.) The Zohar says that when God saved Abraham from the furnace, Terah repented. (Zohar, Bereshit 1:77b.) Rabbi Abba b. Kahana said God assured Abraham that his father Terah had a part in the world to come. (Genesis Rabbah 30:4; 30:12.) And thus learned the futility of idol worship.
As fathers, we are responsible for instructing, training and teaching our children. But that doesn’t mean we can never learn from them. I love this story because of the way Abraham made fun of his father, and through his practical joke taught him a very important lesson. I don’t know if I’m buying the part of the story where Terah delivers her son to the king, and the king sentences Abraham to death for the offense. So, for the purposes of this study, let’s omit that part. I have always loved my own father very much and I have no complaints about the way he raised me. However, I had a sort of fearful respect for him that even though we both had a good sense of humor, I could never have done something like that to him. Now, the relationship I have with my children is a little different, especially with my youngest son, Levi.
Levi is an extraordinary ball breaker. A real prankster since he was in kindergarten. He put things in my shoes, he put wet washcloths on my pillow before I went to bed, and that’s one of my favorites; he sticks the trigger of the sprayer on the sink and leaves it pointed at me, so when I go to make coffee in the morning, I get sprayed with cold water. I really like being the butt of his jokes and I let him know. I’m glad that even though he respects me, probably more than my other kids, he’s not afraid to “make fun of me”. He’s got a bit of a “problem but I can’t take it” but I’m working on that. A real strong point with Levi is that he can go from a little prankster to a pretty deep serious guy and he knows when to turn it on and off.
I think a sense of humor is very important. When used correctly, it can really grab the attention and interest of a child or anyone else so that important instructions can be passed on. I have some serious lectures based entirely on two different jokes. I open these lectures with the joke, using it as a sort of parable, then I explain some pretty serious issues to my children and, recently, to a few of their friends. I hope it will turn out the way I think it will. I just hope my approach works, because it would be a bit awkward if it fell flat. I guess when you try to be funny even for the right reasons, you sometimes run the risk of coming across as a fool!
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