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SEPTEMBER 5-6, 2003 9 ELUL 5763

Pop Quiz: What is Sha'atnez?


"Our son is rebellious; he does not heed our voice." (Debarim 21:20)

Although the conditions necessary to punish a wayward and rebellious son with the appropriate punishment are difficult to come by, and indeed some say it never happened, we can learn some important lessons from this perashah. The Torah says that the parents say, "This is our son and he doesn't listen to our voice," emphasizing that the parents are united in their upbringing of their child and in the ultimate punishment. Then, they are entitled to bring him to bet din, since they have done the best they could, the fault being the son's.

This teaches us how important it is for both parents to be together in raising a child. If he hears two voices, rather than "our voice," he will get mixed messages and will quickly learn to manipulate one against the other to get his own way. Many times, parents might not agree on a certain point regarding their child, be it about permissiveness or about punishment, etc. They should discuss it between themselves first and come out with one voice to the child. Then, even if the child knows it's really the wish of one parent and not the other, he sees a unified front and won't be able to "divide and conquer." This is a well known rule which we may be very aware of, but if we take the time and energy to implement it on a regular basis, we will see more success in raising fine children. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"If a man has a wayward and rebellious son" (Debarim 21:18)

Our perashah discusses the misvah of a rebellious son. If a child displays certain tendencies of wickedness, the Torah tells us that the parents shall come to the Jewish court. They should grasp their son and they should say to the elders, "Our son is wayward and rebellious..." They will say that their son does not listen to their voices, and they are not able to discipline their son. The Torah tells us that if all of the details of the law apply, the rebellious son will be executed by the court. Our Talmud tells us that a case of a rebellious son being executed never happened, since it is almost impossible for all of the technicalities to fall into place to receive execution. If so, why does the Torah bring such a misvah? The Talmud answers, to teach parents to be careful so that a son of theirs should never turn into a rebellious son.

When the Torah describes the rebellious son, ben sorer umoreh, the word moreh is written in the long form, with a vav. However, when the verse relates the parents' description of their son, the word moreh is written in an abbreviated form, without a vav. Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (quoted in Torah Lada'at) explains that there is a good reason for this. The Torah wishes to point out a basic character trait. Parents tend to overlook and minimize the faults of their children. This explains the abbreviated form of moreh that the parents use. If they would take preventive actions when they see a problem developing, and nip it in the bud before it blossoms into a major crisis, they would save themselves much heartache and aggravation. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah


"A perfect and honest measure shall you have, so that your days shall be lengthened" (Debarim 25:15)

What is the connection between longevity and perfect weights and measures? Hashem's way with man is middah keneged middah - measure for measure. When a person transgresses, Hashem waits patiently until the person has filled his "measure" of transgression and then He punishes. Thus, when a cheater gives less than the full weight or less than the correct measure, Hashem too deals with him with a measure similar to his and does not wait with punishment until his measure of sin is filled.

Hence, the Torah is telling us that a person should be meticulous with weights and measures and be careful to give the full amount due, so that Hashem will patiently wait with him to reach his full measure. Consequently, the person will merit the blessing of long life. (Vedibarta Bam)


"And she shall cry for her father and mother a month of days" (Debarim 21:13)

If, after a war, one of the soldiers wants to marry someone from the other side, there is a process that is necessary. Part of this process is that she will cry for her father and mother for a month. The Ramban cites the Rambam that this month of crying is to have compassion for the woman the soldier wants to marry. By crying she will find inner peace. When one is very sad, one's nerves become calmed after crying. The Ramban himself explains that this month is the amount of time necessary for her to remove the name of her idols from her mouth and heart.

Rabbi Chayim Zaitchyk commented that we see from here that to really change a trait it takes a thirty day period of intensive work. This is the principle of the month of Elul which is a time for us to focus on our behavior and traits in order to make major improvements on ourselves. At times a person tries to work on a trait for a day or two, and when he doesn't see improvement he becomes discouraged and gives up. When you want to improve any trait, give yourself thirty days of serious effort in order to see visible changes. While some people are able to make changes very quickly, even they need a significant amount of time in order to ensure that the new habits become second nature. Even if you do not see any positive changes the first week or two, if you will persevere for an entire thirty days you will begin to see the fruits of your labor. (Growth through Torah)


This Week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 54:1-10.

This week, we read the fifth of the series of seven haftarot that deal with consolation and redemption. Hashem promises that he will show mercy and bring the people back to Jerusalem. His kindness will never be removed from us, and His covenant of peace will not falter.


Question: Twelve Psalms are added to the prayers on Shabbat morning before Baruch SheAmar. Why?

Answer: 1) Each Psalm relates either to the creation of the world or to Shabbat itself. 2) Each Psalm contains a reference to one of the ten statements with which the world was created. 3) The Tur writes: "There is no bitul melachah (loss of work) as a result of them." Perhaps these Psalms are important to a person's faith and beliefs, but cannot be said on weekdays because there is no time. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"You shall make a fence for your roof, so that you will not place blood in your house if a faller falls from it."

This pasuk teaches the law that a person is obligated to build a fence around the roof of his house. Since homes used to have flat roofs, and people used to use the roofs for various functions, it was necessary for the owner to take the necessary precautions to ensure that nobody would fall from the roof.

However, the wording of the pasuk hints to an additional message. It doesn't just say that a "person" might fall from the roof, it says that the "faller" might fall, as if to say that he was destined to fall whether you put the fence or not. There is a dual lesson here. On the one hand, everyone must take every precaution to prevent causing damage to another person. On the other hand, if a person causes you pain, even if he is completely at fault, you must remember that Hashem wanted you to receive this hardship, whether through this person or by some other means, and bear no ill feelings toward the other person.

Question: How careful are you to avoid causing pain, in words or deed, to your fellow man? Do you ever double park? What is your usual reaction when someone inconveniences you - anger toward the person, or acceptance of Hashem's will to put you in that situation?

Answer to Pop Quiz: A (forbidden) mixture of wool and linen fibers in a garment.

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