Posts Tagged 'Strict Father'

There’s Something Bigger than Phil: On the Rule of One Law

In his classic 2000 Year Old Man, Mel Brooks played a character who has lived for 2000 year old man with an old-school Yiddish accent and Carl Reiner interviewed him as the straight man. Her is a short introduction:

In this amazing “interview” they explore the origin of faith:

INTERVIEWER: Did you believe in anything?

OLD MAN: Yes, a guy – Phil. Philip was the leader of our tribe.

INTERVIEWER: What made him the leader?

OLD MAN: Very big, very strong, big beard, big arms, he could just kill you. He could walk on you and you would die.

INTERVIEWER: You revered him?

OLD MAN: We prayed to him. Would you like to hear one of our prayers? “Oh Philip. Please don’t take our eyes out and don’t pinch us and don’t hurt us….Amen.”

INTERVIEWER: How long was his reign?

OLD MAN: Not too long. Because one day, Philip was hit by lightning. And we looked up and said…”There’s something bigger than Phil.”

I love this as a Rabbi, student of religion, and most interesting as a parent. I was thinking about this last Shabbat when Libi, who is 7 years old, asked me a law of Shabbat. Without getting into the details she asked me if X is permissible on Shabbat can she do Y. I love intellectually as it shows he facility and ownership of Jewish law. I also love it because it demonstrates that she understands that there is something bigger than Phil and I am not Phil.

I was I do thinking about that this week reading the start of Tzav, this week’s Torah portion. There we read:

The Lord spoke to Moshe, saying: Command Aaron and his sons thus: This is the ritual of the burnt offering: The burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept going on it.

Leviticus 6:1-2

What do we make of this language of being commanded? For many modern people the notion of command is complicated by the notion that there must be an Commander. But I think that misses the point that this command was not just said to Aaron or from Aaron, but rather there is one command for Aaron and his sons. What do we make of the command being to both the Father and the sons?

This question brings be to one of my favorite ideas by Prof. George Lakoff in which he juxtaposes the intellectual frame of conservative vs liberal thinking through the metaphor parenting styles. Lakoff described conservative voters as being influenced by the “strict father model” as a central metaphor for such a complex phenomenon as the state, and liberal/progressive voters as being influenced by the “nurturant parent model” as the folk psychological metaphor for this complex phenomenon. According to him, an individual’s experience and attitude towards sociopolitical issues is influenced by being framed in linguistic constructions.. He writes:

Deeply embedded in conservative and liberal politics are different models of the family. Conservatism, as we shall see, is based on a Strict Father model, while liberalism is centered around a Nurturant Parent model. These two models of the family give rise to different moral systems and different discourse forms, that is, different choices of words and different modes of reasoning.

In this context God might be the commander, but Aaron along with his sons of equally commanded. I am intrigued at this notion that there is something bigger than Phil, meaning that we have no value of the Strict Father. God might know best, but daddy foes not. This has huge implications for us here today in the United States, Russia, and Israel. No one is above the law; not Trump, Putin, or Bibi. We need to evolve out of the looking for Phil. We need to strive to be nurturing parents equal under the law. And yes this even includes me with Libi regarding the laws of Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom- to all of us equally.


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