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Parshas Ki Seitzei - Vol. 6,
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.
Ki yeish’vu achim yach’dav u’meis echad meihem u’ben ein lo lo sih’yeh eishes ha’meis ha’chutza l’ish zar y’vama yavo aleha v’lak’cha lo l’isha v’yib’ma (25:5)
After tremendous efforts, a couple was given permission to leave communist Russia to move to Israel. Unfortunately, the request of the husband’s brother to join them was denied by the government, so he requested that the childless couple claim his daughter as their own so that they could raise her in Israel with a proper Jewish education.
Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival in Israel, the couple was involved in a terrible car accident. The wife was left unconscious, although the doctors were optimistic that she would eventually have a full recovery. The husband, on the other hand, was conscious but suffered severe internal injuries and was expected to die shortly, before his wife would likely regain consciousness.
Since the man would die without any children, his wife would be forbidden to remarry until performing the chalitzah ceremony with his brother. At that time, travel into or out of Russia – where the man’s brother was still trapped – was virtually impossible. The husband was also unable to free her by divorcing her since a woman must be conscious to receive a divorce document.
The dilemma was brought to the attention of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, who responded with a brilliant solution to save her from becoming an agunah who is unable to remarry. The law is that if the brother of the deceased is related to the wife of the deceased and is therefore forbidden to marry her, she is exempt not only from yibum but even from the requirement to perform chalitzah (Yevamos 3a).
Although we follow the ban of Rabbeinu Gershom against polygamy, the Torah permits a man to have more than one wife. In the event that the deceased had a second wife who is not related to his brother, the Mishnah in Yevamos (2a) rules that not only does the first wife (who is related to the brother of the deceased) exempt herself from both yibum and chalitzah, she also exempts all of her husband’s wives, even those who aren’t related to his brother.
In this case, Rav Elyashiv suggested that the husband betroth his niece (who wasn’t involved in the accident) since Rabbeinu Gershom’s decree forbidding polygamy applies only to marrying a second wife but not to betrothing one (Even HaEzer 1:10). When the husband dies, both of his “wives” will fall to his brother for yibum. However, because one of the wives is his brother’s daughter, she will be exempt from both yibum and chalitzah. As per the Mishnah in Yevamos, she will exempt not only herself but also the currently unconscious wife, who will then be free to remarry.
Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (71a) rules that a child may only be punished as a rebellious son if his parents are identical in their voices, appearances, and height. How is it possible for the parents to have identical voices, as having the voice of the opposite gender is one of the signs of being unable to bear children (Yevamos 80b), and such a couple would be unable to have a child? (Hagahos HaBach Sanhedrin 71a, Tiferes Yisroel Sanhedrin 8:28, Ayeles HaShachar)
2) Why is no blessing recited before doing the mitzvah (22:3) of returning a lost object? (Har Tzvi)
3) Why is the mitzvah of keeping honest weights and measures (25:13-16) specifically rewarded with long life? (Yalkut HaGershuni)
4) We are commanded (25:19) to blot out the memory of Amalek from “under the heavens.” Regarding the generation of the flood, Hashem said (Bereishis 6:7) that He will erase them from “on the face of the earth.” Why are the expressions changed, and what is the difference between them? (Taima D’Kra Parshas Beshalach)
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