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כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה איננו שמע בקול אביו ובקול אמו

If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother. (21:18)

Concerning the incident of the ben sorer u’moreh, the wayward son, and its accompanying laws causes one to pause and ask: Why? This could never happen. Why take up precious space to write about a wayward son that (according to the demanding laws that accompany it) has characteristics which are not likely to develop. D’rosh u’sekabel s’char, “Learn and you will receive reward”: Probably the greatest reward will be derived from learning it properly – with a focus on one’s parenting. This way, he will not have to address such a child personally. Having said this, we turn to one…

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כי יקרא קן צפור לפניך בדרך בכל עץ או על הארץ אפרחים או ביצים והאם רבצת על האפרחים או על הביצים לא תקח האם על הבנים

If a bird’s nest happens to be before you on your way, on a tree or on the ground – young birds or eggs – and the mother is roosting on the young birds or the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young. (22:6)

The laws of shiluach hakein, sending away an ownerless bird which is roosting on her young, is a mitzvah for which a number of humanistic “rationales” are suggested. Obviously, these explanations are primarily for us, human beings, with our mortal minds, so that we have an understanding of a mitzvah which seems to be simple to perform and carries with it the awesome reward of longevity. Like everything else in the Torah, there is also a homiletic and esoteric side to it, which often sheds a completely new perspective on the mitzvah. Horav Levi Yitzchak m’Berditchev, zl, explains the mitzvah of…

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והיה אם לא תמצא חן בעיניו... וכתב לה ספר כריתות... ושלחה מביתו

And it will be that she will not find favor in his eyes… and he wrote her a bill of divorce… and sent her from his house. (24:1)

At the end of Meseches Gittin, the Talmud states: “One who divorces his first wife – even the Mizbayach, Altar, sheds tears over this.” Why do Chazal underscore the Mizbayach as the object that weeps? Why not the Heavens, the oceans, the trees – indeed, everything in the world? Why specifically the Altar? Horav Avraham Benuchovski, zl, explains this based upon the meaning of Hashem’s declaration (prior to the creation of Chavah): Lo tov hayos ha’adam levado. E’eseh lo eizar k’negdo, “It is not tov, good, that man is alone. I will make for him an eizar, helpmate, opposite him”…

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זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלך

Remember what Amalek did to you. (25:17)

What did Amalek really do to us? They came after us three times: in Refidim; the Maapilim, after the spies; following the death of Aharon HaKohen. There were casualties, and every Jewish soul whose life is cut short is worth all of our enemy – and more. Nonetheless, we have been persecuted and hounded, murdered like animals led to the slaughter; from the Egyptians who persecuted us for 210 years, who slaughtered our babies, to Titus, Nevuchadnetzer, Crusades, Inquisition, hundreds of pogroms, Chemelniki, and finally the cataclysmic Holocaust, which destroyed one third of our nation – yet we are not…

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כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה איננו שמע בקול אביו ובקול אמו

If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother. (21:18)

The Torah refers to the father of the wayward and rebellious son as an ish, a man, and then goes on to state the boy’s sin: he does not obey his father and mother. Why does the Torah refer to the ish/father as the boy’s progenitor, as having begotten him, but – in contrast – when it addresses his disobedience, he is considered to be son of both his father and mother? This inconsistency in and of itself might be the precursor for the boy’s degenerate behavior. Parents have a child; it is a boy! The father immediately takes charge….

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כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה איננו שומע בקול אביו ובקול אמו

If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother. (21:18)

Einenu shomeia, “does not hearken/listen” is the given translation. The word einenu means much more than “does not (listen).” It means he is not a listener; he is unable to listen; his ability to listen is (sadly) impeded. The Torah should have written (simply), eino shomeia: “(he) does not listen.” The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh notes this change and derives from here that, when the yetzer hora, evil inclination, reigns over a person, or, rather, if the yetzer hora becomes part of this person, his ability to hear, listen, to accept, becomes so impeded that he is unable to listen. He…

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כי קבור תקברנו ביום ההוא

Rather, you shall surely bury him on that day. (21:23)

The prohibition against keeping a body unburied overnight applies even to one who has died of natural causes. The Talmud Yerushalmi Moed Kattan (2:4) states that one is not permitted to disinter the bones of a corpse unless it is for the purpose of reinterring them in a family plot. This prohibition is applicable, even if it means moving the bones to a cemetery that is more dignified than the original place where the body had been buried. Also, a person/neshamah would rather be buried in close proximity to family (Meshech Chochmah). The Meshech Chochmah seems to say that same-day…

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לא יבוא עמוני ומואבי בקהל ד' ... על דבר אשר לא קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים...ואשר שכר עליך את בלעם

An Amomite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of Hashem… because of the fact that they did not greet you with bread and water… and because he hired against you Bilaam. (23:4,5)

Two reasons are given as to why we may not accept converts from the nations of Ammon and Moav: A) They did not come forward to greet us with bread and water as we journeyed through the wilderness following 210 years of slavery; B) They hired Bilaam, the evil pagan prophet, to curse us.  These are two good reasons, which are clearly quite different from one another. The first reason criticizes their lack of etiquette, of human decency. The second reason excoriates them for attempting to destroy one another. They are so distant from one another that they hardly belong…

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כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה... ואמרו אל זקני עירו בננו זה סורר ומורה איננו שמע בקלנו זולל וסובא

If a man will have a wayward and rebellious son… they shall say to the elders of the city, “This son of ours is wayward and rebellious; he does not listen to our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” (21:18,20)

The ben sorer u’moreh, wayward and rebellious son, has to be one of Jewish society’s greatest tragedies. A child so evil that his parents bring him to bais din, rabbinical court, where, upon confirmation of his nefarious acts of gluttony and derogation of his parents, he will be executed, is unusual and tragic. His actions indicate a complete lack of restraint necessary to lead an observant and holy life. While this concept is quite difficult for anyone not steeped in Torah to understand, let alone accept, it is primarily due to their not being steeped in Torah that grasping the…

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ורגמוהו כל אנשי עירו באבנים ומת

All the men of his city shall pelt him with stones and he shall die. (21:21)

The ben sorer u’moreh receives the ultimate punishment: execution by stoning. He is put to death while he is still innocent, having not yet committed a sin which carries the penalty of capital punishment. It is better that he should die now as a rebellious glutton, rather than allowing him to be driven by his base desires to plunder and even murder in pursuit of filling his obsessive appetite. The punishment of stoning seems excessive, since, even if our fears for his future evil would be realized – and he would murder – the punishment would still be hereg/sayif, beheading…

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