Cursing’s Legacy

First posted on The Times of Israel at:

Netziv Exodus: Mishpatim

Cursing’s Legacy

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.” -Umberto Eco

It is often something of a national pastime to criticize and even curse our leaders. They are easy punching-bags upon which to vent all of our complaints and grievances with the world. Even if the faults are true, there is little that such grumblings accomplish.

The Torah warns us against cursing ones rulers. The Netziv learns at least two lessons from that particular commandment. On Exodus 22:27 he states that the prohibition against cursing the leadership is specified exactly because it is so easy, natural and common. The second lesson is a bit deeper with longer-term implications.

On Exodus 22:28 the Netziv prophesizes that a man who refrains from cursing his leaders, whether they be political or religious, will merit to have a son who will himself serve God via lay or religious leadership. There is something in the act of showing restraint, respect and deference to our leadership that cultivates and empowers the next generation to take on the mantle of leadership.

If leaders are the subject of constant disparagement at home, why would any child, even unconsciously, seek or even consider higher ambitions? Just so that he should become a subject of idle discussion and inane criticism? No. It is only the child that is spared and shielded from such negativity that dares rise above the mundane, and in the words of the Mishna, “Be a man where there are no men.”

May we help cultivate future leaders.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the Jewish lay leadership of Uruguay, and specifically to Sara Winkowski, the force behind the successful introduction of the pre-nuptial solution, who never gave up on her mission. I am constantly humbled and inspired by the leadership’s dedication to the community.

Leave a Reply