Friday, September 01, 2006

Parshas Ki Seitzei

No time this week to make something of my own, unfortunately. The D'var Torah this week is copied directly from R' Eli Mansour's weekly thoughts on the Parsha, of which I am a big fan. It's mainly about parenting - something I have no experience in, so I hope his points are not off base:

We read in Parashat Ki-Tetze the law concerning the "Ben Sorer U'moreh," the disobedient child (Devarim 21:18-21). The Gemara explains that the Torah refers here to a 12-13 year old child who steals his parents' money and spends it on small amounts of meat and wine. The parents take this boy to the local Beit Din (Rabbinical court), who then sentences the child to execution.

This law is very difficult on various levels, particularly in light of the Gemara's comment that no situation of Ben Sorer U'moreh has ever occurred. The conditions for the application of this law are so particular that it is all but impossible for this to happen. The Torah nevertheless presented this law, the Gemara explained, for the purpose of "Derosh Ve'kabel Sachar" - so that one can earn reward by studying this material.

The obvious question arises, is there not enough Torah for us to learn and thereby earn reward? Do we need this theoretical law to ensure that we have enough Torah material to study?

The answer, as several Rabbis explained, is that by studying this section one earns the "reward" of proper parenting. From the laws concerning the Ben Sorer U'moreh one can extract invaluable lessons in parenting, and thereby be deserving of immense reward.We present here several important lessons that emerge from these laws:

1) The Torah tells that when the parents come before the Beit Din, they say about their son, "Einenu Shomei'a Be'koleinu" - "He does not hearken to our voice." Rabbi Mordechai Gifter (head of the Telshe Yeshiva of Cleveland, 20th century) noted that the Torah here employs the term "Koleinu" - "our voice" - rather than "Devareinu" - our words. The parents tell the court that when they admonished the child for his inappropriate conduct, he didn't hear any words; he heard only a "Kol," a voice. Children often relate to their parents' instructions and guidance as but a "Kol," meaningless noise. They see their parents as outdated and out of touch, and thus look upon their advice as irrelevant. As much as parents are required to provide instruction and guidance in as clear a manner as possible, children, for their part, must realize that their parents have valuable insight and experience, and must never dismiss their parents' admonition as just a meaningless "Kol."

2) The Torah describes the Ben Sorer U\'moreh as a child "who does not hearken to the voice of his father or the voice of his mother." The Gemara deduces from this formulation that this law applies only if the two parents have similar voices. (This is one of the conditions that make it practically impossible for this situation to occur.) How are we to explain this condition? Why is it necessary for the father and mother to have similar voices for the law of Ben Sorer U\'moreh to take effect? The Rabbis explained that a child can be blamed for his rebelliousness only if he received a unified message from both parents. If a child is raised with conflicting messages, if a father encourages him to act in one way while the mother urges him to act differently, he will likely become rebellious and have little respect for authority.

3) Another condition requires that both parents must have their vision intact for their child to attain the status of Bein Sorer U\'moreh. If one parent is blind, the law cannot apply. This condition, too, reflects an important lesson in parenting. A parent who is "blind" to his child\'s unique needs and tendencies will provide him with a standardized education, rather than molding a personalized program and devising an educational technique that suits the child\'s particular needs. Judaism recognizes the fact that no two children are the same, and each requires individualized attention and an educational approach that suits his character. If a parent is blind, the child cannot be blamed for his wayward conduct, and thus cannot become a Ben Sorer U\'moreh.

4) Finally, there is much to learn from the parents who, as the Torah describes, take the drastic measure of bringing their child to the Beit Din. Rather than dismissing the child\'s misconduct and saying, "Well, he\'s just a kid," they recognize the seriousness of the problem and give it their full attention. Especially in our society that encourages physical indulgence, where a child can so easily be led astray, it behooves parents to keep a watchful eye on their children and give serious attention to any signs of wayward conduct. It is irresponsible for a parent to ignore these indications or dismiss them as but a passing phase. Parents bear the obligation to carefully monitor their children\'s progress and ensure their proper development into proper, Torah-observant adults."


Blogger Lanie said...

I didn't read this post, but I would like to point out that this Shabbos is the 12th anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah and I will happily recite the Haftorah for anyone who cares to hear it.

10:00 AM, September 01, 2006


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