Father and daughter wearing robot costumes at home

Foolish Advice

Kids have an important job.

“The first service a child doth his father is to make him foolish.” So wrote the 17th century poet George Herbert. 

In the Midrash, we are told of a man who left a strange provision in his will. The will left everything to his only child, his son, but conditionally: the son could not inherit “until he became a fool.”

No one could figure out the meaning of the will, including the son’s rabbi. So he went to consult a greater authority, Rabbi Joshua ben Karcha. There he saw through the window that Rabbi Joshua was on all fours, a reed sticking out of his mouth, being pulled along by a child. He soon realized it was Rabbi Joshua ben Karcha’s small daughter and the rabbi was pretending to be a horse.

When asked about the will, the sage instantly responded: “What you just saw is your answer.” The will meant the son could not inherit until he had children. For living with adults alone can induce a seriousness that is really foolish.

Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.

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