For the week of February 9, 2002 / 27 Shevat 5762
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 21:1 - 24:18; 30:11-16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26
Replaced by 2 Melachim / II Kings 12:1-17

Who Runs Your Life?

Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him (2 Melachim / 2 Kings 12:2).

Independence is a very high value in our society. People are often told to "think for themselves!" - but I wonder how many of us actually do. Personally I think that we are far more influenced by others than we tend to think. Sometimes these influences are subtle, in that we are not aware of how they are affecting us, and other times we just do what others expect of us.

This is not to say that all outside influences are bad. Far from it. It is beneficial, even essential, to have good role models, wise advisers, and skilled teachers in our lives. But what difference will it make if we have good influences, but never really learn to think for ourselves. If we depend too much upon others for guidance in life, all we ever learn is to be dependant. We will constantly need others to tell us what to do.

This seems to be what is going on in this week's Haftarah reading. Joash became king when he was only seven years old. It is not surprising that he would have someone like Jehoiada the priest to help him. Our portion gives the impression that Jehoiada's good influence on Joash only lasted as long as Jehoiada lived. Additional information in the parallel account found in the Second Book of Divrei Yamim (English: Chronicles) makes it clear how things turned out after Jehoiada died.

After the death of Jehoiada, the officials of Judah came and paid homage to the king, and he listened to them. They abandoned the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and worshiped Asherah poles and idols. Because of their guilt, God's anger came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although the LORD sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen (2 Divrei Yamim / 2 Chronicles 24:17-19)

The story goes on to tell us that when Joash was confronted by Jehoiada's son Zechariah, that Joash murdered him.

Now how could it be that Joash was so easily turned from doing what was right after living under the good influence of Jehoiada for at least 16 years? Here's a possibility. Joash was very young when he began his reign. We can assume that in those first several years, Jehoiada's influence was very strong to the point that he must have been the one making the decisions. I wonder if as Joash grew older whether or not Jehoiada allowed Joash to fully take his responsibility as king.

As long as Jehoiada was around, Joash may have deferred decisions to him. By the time Jehoiada died, Joash was in his twenties and quite used to letting others tell him what to do.

We cannot say who was to blame for this. There were probably things about the two personalities that played upon each other. Maybe Jehoiada was a domineering sort of person. Maybe Joash was weak willed. It doesn't really matter as there is still no excuse for what Joash did after Jehoiada died. He should still have done what is right. No matter how difficult it may have been for Joash to learn to think for himself, he should have.

If you are someone who has a measure of influence over others, don't think that your influence is genuinely effective just because the people you are influencing are performing well. You also need to help those people learn how to think for themselves by allowing them to take responsibility for their own actions.

If you are someone who is overly dependant upon others, then realizing that is the first step. Once you begin to take responsibility for yourself, then with God's help you will be able to start making your own decisions.

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