Parshas Ki Seitzei
A Uniform Message
כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה איננו שמע בקול אביו ובקול אמו… (כא:יח).
“If a man has a wayward son who disobeys the voice of his father and the voice of his mother…” (21:18).
A simple question must be asked here. This verse seems quite wordy, could it not have simply stated that the child does not listen to his parents, why must it spell out “the voice of his father and the voice of his mother”, individually?
The answer is famous and fundamental and I would like to develop upon it. Certainly, every person is responsible for their own actions. However, we can often find a cause or partial justification for one’s actions by viewing the environment which they were raised. So what went wrong here? How did such a rebellious child emerge? Everyone needs role-models. It is only from watching proper and healthy human interactions that one will be able to implement within himself the ability to be an outstanding and properly developed human being. One who was never afforded this privilege may be very unfortunate and lack the necessary ingredients for functionality.
The wayward son has rebelled and showed that he has no interest in doing what is right. Whereas the Torah clearly states that he is responsible for his own actions, it does not neglect to give a hint to the most common impetus to such an attitude development. The parents! This child grew up confused. In his home, there was no uniform voice and message. Rather, there was an individualistic agenda of the father who told him what to do and there was a second and unrelated voice of his mother who had her agenda for him as well. This is the meaning of our verse’s individualized and separate reference to the parent’s voices. There was no common ground and the child learned that it is fine and acceptable to live removed from sensitivity and unity with others. Hence, he decided to ignore Hashem’s voice as well!
Not So Famous Extrapolation
Without dragging out this painfully true reality, I would like to now move on to the positive enforcement of this lesson. Indeed, Chazal (Sanhedrin 71a) tell us that the purpose of the entire length of laws found regarding the wayward son is to give us reward for studying and toiling in it, as in practice it is an impossibility. Perhaps the reward benefited from its study is a strong and emotional wake-up call for proper parenting and marital harmony.
The Jewish home is more important that a bomb-shelter! A bomb shelter only protects from physical harm; the home is the tool for protecting from spiritual harm. There are atomic perversion bombs dropping on children daily. Whether it is from bad friends, bad places, television, media, or most powerfully the internet, these infiltrations are a stark reality. The only way that we can shelter our future from being lured away by the bright glitter and false promises is if we offer them something more appealing at home. This is love and true values. The Jewish home must be a fortified and protected palace. When the home is a peaceful and productive place, then the child will enjoy his time there. He will bask in the warm and radiant atmosphere and he will steadily take in all of the life lessons being taught. He will learn how to say “no” to the enticing outside distractions. He will learn how to love and care and how to work together with others to achieve the true happiness in life. Now that’s a beautiful picture to imagine! May we all merit to experience this as a reality firsthand and to see how much success and productivity comes from such a great atmosphere! We must remember that it is never too late to reinforce our shelters!
Close at Heart
This week’s Parsha is loaded with Mitzvos and concepts. One of them is a topic that is very painful. That is the writing of a גט, divorce document. I wish to focus on an important lesson that can be learned from the get.
It is well known in the name of the Vilna Goan that one of the aspects of why the word גט is utilized is because throughout the Torah, the two letters “ג” and “ט” never appear next to each other. Much has been said about this “cute thought”. There is much depth to it. I believe that there is an expression of what a Torah marriage is meant to be. Hashem intended for husband and wife to connect and be together with the Torah as their guide. When this fails, then a גט is the result. Let us focus on how to achieve this outlook.
The very first description which Adam gives upon seeing his wife is (Beraishis 2:23): She is a bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh, she should be called Isha, woman, for she comes from Ish, man!
Why in fact did Hashem create the woman from a part of man himself? Could He not have just used raw material from another source, perhaps from dirt, just as Adam was formed?!
This is a simple yet fundamental question. The answer will prepare us to understand Hashem’s goal for marriage!
Hashem wanted man and woman to be one unified unit! True, each one would have different personalities, tendencies and strengths, in fact very diversely, but, in essence they would blend and work together! By creating their bodies (and souls as well, as stated in the Zohar) from one place, this gave them an intrinsic bond and connection that would last for eternity. Man and woman were to ponder their shared creation and realize the importance of building a deep relationship between them. Hashem created them from one body to teach them to work together to become like one! Their serving Hashem together by following His Torah and Mitzvos and treating each other with sensitivity and respect makes them into one! (based on Gr”a in Mishley 9:10)
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman zt”l was once waiting in an office together with his wife and newly married daughter and son-in-law, ybl”c Rabbi Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg shlit”a. R’ Scheinberg was sitting next to his own wife and his in-laws were on the outer ends of the two of them. The young newlywed joked with his father-in-law saying, “I’m closer to my wife that you are to yours!”
Rabbi Herman chuckled and then retorted with his own quick rebuttal, a lesson that would last a lifetime: You just got married, so for now, in order for you to be close to your wife, you must sit right near her, but my wife and I have been married for years and we are so close and connected in our hearts that no physical distance can ever separate us! Thus, I am closer to my wife!
The Will To Grow
We all know the axiom of Torah justice that states that man is only judged, “באשר הוא שם, according to his actions at the present time.” Hashem does not punish someone based on what it seems like he will do wrong in the future.
The classical example is when Yishmael (See Beraishis 21:17) was dying of thirst, the angels told Hashem that a person whose ancestors are in the future going to kill Jews by way of depriving water, he does not deserve to be given a drink! Hashem responded, “right now he is not guilty and thus does not deserve to die.” With that, Hashem sent him water and saved his life.
The Gemara tells us that the rebellious son in our Parsha gets put to death not because of his actions of stealing and eating with gluttony, but because eventually he will do bigger sins and so it is better to just execute him now. The question is, what happened to judging only based on the present time?!
There are numerous answers. I heard from my dear Rebbe, Rabbi Asher Zelig Rubenstein shlit”a a beautiful explanation which I later found to be hinted by Rabbi Menachem Recanti (d. 1310). The Ben Sorer U’Moreh is guilty now! The verse states that this young man, “doesn’t listen.” He has no interest in hearing about life and his personal responsibilities; this is the ultimate sin! It would be one thing if he was sinning because he was distracted and his passions got the most of him. At least he would know he was wrong and needs to improve. This is not the case. He has closed his heart to hear anything. For that he is punished accordingly.
Life is all about growth and self-improvement. Every day is an opportunity to learn, grow and enjoy!
Mind Body and Soul
The parsha is packed with a large array of laws. One of them is where the Jews are instructed to (Devarim 25:17): “Remember what Amelek did to you…. don’t forget.” Why is there a double expression of both ‘remember’ and ‘don’t forget’? Chazel tell us (Megillah 18a) that ‘remember’ means verbally; ‘don’t forget’ means in the heart. What does this mean? Are we not meant to simply remember in our minds?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l (1895 – 1986) addresses these questions. He explains that we must understand what Amelek did wrong. The Jews left Egypt after a one year display of the most fantastic and awe-inspiring Ten Plagues that the world had ever seen. The nations watched as Hashem split the sea and brought the Jews to safety and security while the Egyptian tormentors were executed and punished. The world shook at the thought of the Jews (See Shemos 15:14). Amalek as a nation could not bear to watch Hashem and His nation at such an exalted and elevated level. They attacked the Jews as a means to lower the Jew’s and Hashem’s status in the world. Although they knew that they were committing suicide by attacking, they were willing to give up their lives to desecrate and profane Hashem’s name. This is exactly why Hashem punished them with extinction. Amalek represents the forces of evil that attack as a means to deny Hashem and truth. They have no merit of existence.
Rabbi Feinstein explains that the Torah is teaching us that we must remember and feel in a most intimate way the sin that Amalek committed. Just as a child will never forget if someone evil embarrassed his father or mother in public, the emotions are too strong and last forever, so too, the Jewish nation can never forget the terrible and brazen act of Amalek. The Jewish heart, mind and mouth will recount the episode with passion and feeling and a sense of the justice that must be carried out to defend Hashem’s honor.
Hashem gave us the Torah and mitzvos and we serve Him with all of our heart and soul. The Torah teaches us the wisdom of Hashem and it also instills in us lessons of serving Hashem with our emotions and feelings. We stand for the honor of Torah and we verbally and emotionally express the fact that Amelek and what they stand for is not allowed to exist. We invest our efforts into Torah study and actions in a way that our commitment and love of Hashem is palpable. A home that revolves around emotional and verbal connection to Torah is one where true love and joy are found.