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Asking the clergy about strong fathers

Father's Day is June 16. While many see it as the ultimate grilling day, it also is a perfect day to reflect on the roles of fathers past and present. This week, we asked the clergy, "What are some examples of strong fathers in Scripture?"

Rabbi Ari Korenblit, assistant rabbi, The Hampton Synagogue, Westhampton Beach:

I think my answer will surprise many, especially if you don't know the person's whole story. I consider the most outstanding father to be Cain (of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4). He committed a horrific act by killing his own brother, although he may not have recognized the full consequences of his action. There had been no recorded deaths before this, so perhaps Cain didn't understand the enormity or permanence of his actions.

His ultimate act of contrition and repentance is to beget a son, whom he names Chanoch (also seen as Enoch). The significance of that name is that it means "education." The message being that Cain recognized the primary cause of his evil action was because he lacked an education that taught him proper traits, values or guidance.

A repentant Cain wanted to teach the world at large the full value of raising children with the ability to understand right from wrong. Cain goes on, as the Bible relates, to build a city and name it that very same name, Chanoch.

The legacy of Cain is that the heroes of our society are our teachers. I relate a quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth: "So Jews became the people whose passion was education, whose citadels were schools and whose heroes were teachers."

Pastor David Wackenhuth, Trinity Lutheran Church, Islip:

Right away you have to go to God the Father, who sent his son Jesus to die for our sins. We're his children as well.

When you talk about earthly fathers, I would choose Joseph (Matthew 1:24-25), Jesus' earthly father. Think of Mary and how blessed she was to be chosen. But Joseph (Matthew 1:16-2:23), a devout man of great faith, is willing to participate in this divine plan by taking Mary as his wife. He probably was scorned and ridiculed (Matthew 1:19-20), but he listened to God. That is a tremendous example of faith. His ears were open, and he was willing to receive instruction from God.

He was steady and consistent in his trust of God. He was there for Jesus as he grew up. He didn't father Jesus, but was there for him as his protector and spiritual guide. Joseph was a leader for his son.

That is what a father should do in this age -- be a strong spiritual leader for his children. Fathers need to pray with their children and create trust. They don't send them to worship. They bring them to worship. And they should be seen worshiping themselves. Scripture is all about helping us today to learn and grow.

The Rev. Ida Rosario, pastor, Brentwood Presbyterian Church, Brentwood:

A strong father is one who loves unconditionally, provides for his children's needs and reveals the ways of God. He also provides discipline and grace. The ultimate example is God, who has chosen to call us his children. He demonstrates a perfect interpersonal bond of care and concern for us.

In the culture of the Old Testament, the primary role of a father was that of a protector and teacher. Noah (Genesis chapters 6-9) dared to obey God and provided protection for his family in the safety of the ark.

Abraham, also called Abram, was judged by God as one who would guide his household well (Genesis: 11:26 through 25:18). His influence on the faith of those who identified themselves as children of Abraham lives on in the people of Israel. He is also listed as one of the heroes of the faith in the Christian New Testament.

David taught Solomon (1 Kings, 2 Kings, Chronicles) the ways of God. Under Solomon's rule, the kingdom prospered. He judged wisely and the temple was built. Additionally, David demonstrated unconditional love for his son Absalom even when Absalom led a conspiracy against him (2 Samuel 15-17) and was killed. David mourned for him with deep anguish (2 Samuel 18-19:8).

None of these human fathers was perfect, but they demonstrated attributes of strong fathers.

Fathers of today should look to God as their ultimate role model. The New Testament emphasizes Christian love in all family relationships. It is a love that prefers one another and is always concerned with the well-being of the other.


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