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 Parshas Ki Seitzei - Vol. 4, Issue 46
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Ki yih’yeh l’ish ben sorer u’moreh einenu shomeia b’kol aviv uv’kol imo (21:18)

            Parshas Ki Seitzei discusses the laws governing the ben sorer u’moreh – a wayward and rebellious child who eats and drinks ravenously and refuses to heed his parents, and who is punished harshly. Rav Chaim Kanievsky notes that in teaching these laws, the Torah repeatedly emphasizes that each action must be done together by the child’s father and mother. Upon recognizing that he refuses to listen to their instructions, they must rebuke him together. If that fails, they must bring him together to the beis din to be judged. There, they must both declare that he has been unwilling to listen to their voices. Why does the Torah repeatedly stress this idea?

The key to answering this question can be found in a story told by Rav Moshe Aharon Stern. When he was a young child, his teacher announced that the class would be going on a field trip the following week. Each child was to bring a signed permission slip and money to cover the cost of transportation. The young Moshe Aharon excitedly ran home to ask his father for permission and money for the trip. Unfortunately, his family lived in dire poverty, struggling to scrape together money for even the barest essentials, and extra funds for a “luxury” such as a class field trip were nowhere to be found. His saddened father had no choice but to turn down his request for money. The young child was undeterred and hatched a plan.

He waited until the day of the trip and deliberately took his time getting dressed and eating breakfast. After his father had left for work, he suddenly “remembered” the trip and asked his more compassionate mother for permission and bus money. His mother, unaware of the scheme, responded that she would have to call his father at work to discuss it with him. His plot about to be discovered, Moshe Aharon revealed the truth. Decades later, he commented that while he may have missed out on the fun of the class trip, the lesson his mother taught him about the need for parents to work together and present a united front to their children was far more valuable and remained with him for life.

In light of this story, we can now appreciate the answer to our question. In emphasizing the need for the parents to do each action jointly, the Torah is hinting to us that in order for the blame to be placed on the child for failing to hearken to his parents’ words, he must be receiving consistent messages from both of his parents. If he receives conflicting messages from his father and his mother, he can’t help but be bewildered. The responsibility for his actions is not fully his but lies also with his parents for neglecting to present a unified front. If only one parent wishes to bring him to the court to be judged while the other has mercy on him, he similarly cannot be judged a rebellious child, as his parents’ differing approaches to discipline leave him confused regarding the proper course of action.

This lesson is all the more relevant in our day and age, when children are exposed to powerful and unprecedented external influences. The Torah teaches us that the key to raising healthy, balanced children is for the parents to raise them with clear messages and a united front.


Ki yikach ish isha u’ba’ala v’haya im lo timtza chein b’einav ki matza bah ervas davar v’kasav lah sefer kerisus v’nasan b’yada v’shilcha mi’beiso (24:1)

The Vilna Gaon explains that a divorce document is called a get because these two letters aren’t found next to each other in any other word in the Hebrew language and aren’t pronounced with the same part of the mouth. This name therefore symbolizes separation.

Based on this concept, the Margalios HaTorah – a student of the Vilna Gaon – notes that in the section in the Torah (Bereishis 49:29-32) which details the final instructions of Yaakov to his sons immediately prior to his death, every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is used except for gimmel and tes.

As long as Yaakov remained alive, unity reigned between his children, as symbolized by the fact that the letters which connote separation aren’t used to describe his final moments with his sons. However, the following verse (49:33), which relates the death of Yaakov, contains both the letter gimmel and the letter tes, to hint that upon the death of the unifying figure who inspired peace, the brothers immediately began to have (50:15) feelings of distrust and hatred.

Similarly, the section in the Torah (Bamidbar 28:1-8) which discusses the Korban Tamid, the continual offering which was brought twice daily on the Altar, contains every letter in the Hebrew alphabet except for gimmel and tes. This hints to the Gemora in Gittin (90b), which teaches that when a man divorces his first wife, the Altar sheds tears. As a result, the portion which describes the sacrifice which was brought on the Altar most regularly omits the two letters which are used to describe a Jewish document of divorce!


Even shleimah v’tzedek yihyeh lach (25:15)

            Since the Torah is the blueprint for the entire Creation, it inherently contains within it allusions to everything which will ever exist or occur in the universe. The Vilna Gaon explains that the Torah’s recounting of the episode of Creation contains the events which transpired in the first 1000 years of history, with the second 1000 years hidden in the remainder of Sefer Bereishis, the third 1000 years in Sefer Shemos, the fourth 1000 years in Sefer Vayikra, the fifth 1000 years in Sefer Bamidbar, and the final 1000 years in Sefer Devorim. Since Sefer Devorim contains 10 parshios (counting Nitzavim and Vayeilech as one, as they are often read together as a double portion), each portion hints to the events of one century of the sixth millennium.

            The majority of the years of the illustrious life of the Vilna Gaon, whose name was Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, fall in the sixth century of the sixth millennium, which is represented by Parshas Ki Seitzei. When asked where he, one of the greatest products of that century, is alluded to in the parsha, the Vilna Gaon immediately responded by quoting our verse.

The “aleph” in the word “even” is short for his name, Eliyahu. The remaining letters in the word – “ben”– mean “the son of,” and the following word is his father’s name – Shlomo. The Gaon added that the reason his father’s name is spelled out while his is only hinted to through its first letter is because the letter “aleph,” when spelled out, is written “aleph-lamed-peh.” These letters can be rearranged to spell “pelah” – a source of wonder – which is exactly what the Gaon was!

            One of the Vilna Gaon’s descendants, Rav Aizik Ausband, points out that the name of the Gaon’s mother was Treinah, which has the same numerical value as “v’tzedek yihyeh lach”, the three words which follow those which hint to the Gaon and his father. Further, the letters which follow the first letter in the first two words of the verse have the same numerical value as Zalman, his father’s middle name.

            Based on this explanation of the Vilna Gaon, it has been noted that the early years of the Holocaust, the greatest national tragedy in modern history, fall out in the century which is hinted to in Parshas Ki Savo, which contains words of rebuke and hair-raising threats of terrible suffering which will befall the Jewish people. However, consolation may be found by recognizing that we are currently living in the century which corresponds to Parshas Nitzavim-Vayeilech, which is commonly referred to as the portion of repentance. Not surprisingly, the years since World War II have seen an extraordinary wave of uneducated Jews returning to their roots on an unprecedented scale and becoming fully observant, precisely as predicted by the Torah.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Is it permitted to perform the mitzvah (22:6-7) of sending away the mother bird on Shabbos? (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 100)

2)     The Mishnah in Gittin (90a) discusses when a man may divorce his wife (24:1). Beis Shammai maintains that he may do so only if she commits an immodest act, while Beis Hillel opines that he may do so even if she merely burned his food, and Rebbi Akiva posits that he may do so even if he finds another woman who is more attractive. How could Beis Hillel and Rebbi Akiva disregard the dignity of Jewish women and the sanctity of marriage, permitting them to be discarded for such trivial and superficial reasons? (Chochmas Chaim, Taam V’Daas, Derech Sicha)

3)     The Torah teaches (24:5) that if a man marries a new wife, he does not serve in the army for one year. Rashi writes that this law only applies if his wife is new, but if he remarries a woman that he had previously divorced, he is not entitled to this exemption. If a man marries a woman and divorces her shortly thereafter, only to remarry her before one year has passed from their original wedding date, does he go out to battle? (Hagahos Rav Eliyahu Gutmacher Sotah 8:3, S’fas Emes)

4)     Rashi writes (25:18) that the Amalekites took the foreskins of the male Jews and derisively threw them in the air to mock the mitzvah of circumcision. Why were they specifically opposed to this mitzvah more than to any other? (LaBris Habeit)

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