The Righteous Path

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin

The Handwriting on the Wall


  Mene, Mene Tekel Upharsin was a tract from the Book of Daniel about words written by a mysterious hand on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace and interpreted by Daniel as predicting the doom of the king and his dynasty.  The incident is described that once, when King Belshazzar was feasting with his lords and drinking wine from golden vessels, a man’s handwriting was seen writing mysterious words on the wall. Frightened by the apparition, the king called in Daniel, who was able to interpret the message:  God had numbered the kingdom of  Belshazzar and brought it to an end, that his kingdom was divided, that he, the king, had been weighed and found wanting.

   There are many interpretations of the story, translation and meaning of the Handwriting on the Wall.  The modern implication is that you can only do so much harm but eventually your deed will “catch up with you,” “what comes around goes around,” and consequences will follow.  A few well known examples are Hitler’s evil, murderous deeds.  Ultimately he killed himself in order to avoid  a more painful death.  Haman met his demise because of his malicious deeds and intentions.  After plotting and succeeding in murdering thousands of Americans in the nine eleven terrorist attack, Bin Laden's demise came ten years later.  The “investor” Madoff amassed millions in his Ponzi scheme, which caused his imprisonment. 

  The famous book Crime and Punishment by the Russian author Dostoyevsky describes this so well.

  There is a Yiddish phrase:  “Alles moeg mir tun, alles tor man tun yo veyomar”  (phonetic spelling).  Then comes the day of reckoning. 

  Consequences follow, sometimes sooner, sometimes later.  We see it in everyday life.  If an evil or crooked deal is committed, even if it is successful for the perpetrator, the fear alone can cause much discomfort and pain.  Even lies can cause much pain for the individual who utters them.  If the tale bearer is discovered, he is not believed again; he is shunned and found unacceptable.

 There is the child who opposes his parents and forgets all of the caring and love he has received.  He loses much in the way of consideration for future needs that he may have, since there will be a conviction that nothing will change the negative offspring regardless of what the tainted parents have done for him or how much they have extended themselves.

 Divorces have their consequences.  The partner who insists on leaving his or her marriage vows will no longer have to bear the “treatment” of his once significant other.  If it is a man, he faces losing his children, and will no longer have free access to them, he will have to give up a large part of his income, making him financially vulnerable, will possibly face his advancing years alone, will be judged by his friends and colleagues, and may have to leave many of his possessions and “friends,” as well as his familiar surroundings.

  Intermarriage brings with it much turmoil, to say nothing of committing the ultimate “nevere” for the Jewish person.  To the observant parents of such an individual, it psychically kills those who have raised, loved and taught him all that they believe and all that they stand for.  The grown child in question commits this deed with as many excuses as possible.  One is that everyone should accept him, that he is an “independent” adult, that he is “liberal,” that they the parents are bigots, that he “fell in love”, that the parents have the problem, not he,  that they should open their arms to the person he chose, that the alienation is their fault and has nothing to do with him, that he could not find a suitable wife in his religion, that he will eventually convert the wife regardless of her culture or background.  If she is an outer Mongolian she can certainly be a Jew; culture does not matter, etc.  There is most often a great deal of anger/hostility connected with a match thus described.  There is projection of his own feelings on the parents, who are mere innocent  bystanders.

 Let us as Jews and as just humans follow the “graden Derach” (the righteous path), all the good things that have been given us, the teachings/learnings of our parents, our ancestors, our Torah.  Let us not be guided by our unaccepted impulses but our “Lev Tov.”  As our good Rabbi said:  A Mitzwoth is a reward in itself. 


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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