Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Sins of the Father

Art: Marianne Caroselli

"He reckons the fathers' transgression to the sons' account, up to the third and fourth generations" [Shelach 14:18]

In explaining how children can be punished for the sins of their parents, R' Berechiah HaNakdan recounts the following parable:

A hungry wolf met a fox and desired to devour it.

"Why would you want to devour me?" asked the sly fox.  "I am thin and have few bones... go and devour a fat-fleshed human, and you will enjoy the feast."

"I cannot devour a human" replied the wolf, "as the verse states "Of every beast I will demand it" [Bereishis 9:5] - [this verse warns beasts against killing people - see Rashi there]

The fox cackled and said "You have nothing to fear, for it is not you who will receive the punishment, but your children, as the verse says "He reckons the fathers' transgression to the sons' account."

The wolf was persuaded by the fox, and it began to search for a human.  On the way, it fell into a trap laid by hunters.  The wolf began yelling for help.  When the fox heard the calls of the wolf, it carefully approached the wolf.

"You liar!" screamed the wolf.  "Did you not say that only my children would get punished for my sins?"

"Fool that you are" replied the fox, "You are also not getting punished on account of your own sins, but for the sins of your fathers."

"How could that be?" screamed the wolf....."Why would I suffer for what others have done?"

"And why did you set out to devour humans?" queried the fox.  "Was it not because you were counting on the fact that it would be your children who would suffer for your sins? Since you felt it was fair that your children bear your sins, it is only fitting that you bear your fathers' sins!"

A child, concluded R' Berechiah, is only punished for his father's sins if he is guilty of the same sins.  This is because an individual's punishment is meted out measure for measure. When someone emulates the sinful ways of his father, without concern that his children will receive punishment on account of his sins, he too gets punished for the sins of his fathers.

If this is true of the negative, how much more so is it true of the positive: when a righteous son follows in the ways of a righteous father, he will certainly be rewarded for the good deeds of his father!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein


Anonymous said...

I don't really buy this. The wolf did not initially set out to eat humans. He was persuaded to by by the fox, who naturally wanting to save his own skin, told him a lie saying that his children would be punished and not he, the wolf. He, the wolf, foolishly believed him aka a mistake. Why then should he be punished for making a mistake, via his father's sins. Not fair.


Anonymous said...

Life ain't fair.
It's a parable, intended for humans, and humans have free choice even to listen (or not listen) to the advice of a charlatan, fool or yetzer hara.