Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. — Proverbs 10:12
The biblical character Noah is most famous for building an ark. However, I'd like to take a look at what happens to Noah after he left the Ark. The Bible tells us that Noah planted a vineyard, and for one reason or another, one day Noah became drunk from the wine of that vineyard. Clearly not in a good state of mind, Scripture tells us that Noah lay uncovered in his tent, hardly befitting the elder and savior of the only family left on earth.
Now let's take a look at how Noah's sons react to his humiliating circumstance. Ham saw his father and went outside to tell his brothers all about it. He exacerbated Noah's weak moment and brought further embarrassment upon him. However, the other brothers acted quite differently: "But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked"(Genesis 9:23). Shem and Japheth covered their father, preserving his respect, honor, and dignity.
I think there is no better story that illustrates this teaching from Proverbs: "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs." Ham had no love for his father and chose to stir up controversy around Noah's mistakes. Sham and Japheth, on the other hand, came from a place of love and literally covered their father's misdoings.
Similarly, in our own lives, there are times when we hear about or witness a person in a weak moment. How do we react? Do we spread gossip and tell the world about it? Or do we cover that person's humiliation by keeping quiet? Now, of course, if someone else's safety or morality is an issue, we must report what we've seen. I'm talking about seeing a friend who made a bad mistake or watching a family member "lose it."
Do we make things worse by exposing them? Or can we turn to our loved ones and say, "Hey, we all make embarrassing mistakes. I won't let anyone know about it." This is especially true for our young children. Just because they are young doesn't mean we should expose every less-than-intelligent thing they have done even if it is sometimes funny.
Taking this idea further, we need to learn to overlook others' mistakes, even if they may be hurtful. For example, someone may have slighted us, said something nasty, or made a mistake by forgetting to invite us to an event. Can we let it go and bury it?
Let's learn to lovingly place a blanket over the embarrassment of others. In this way we preserve dignity and foster unity among God's children.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President