Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Parshas Ki Seitzei

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

ולא ישמע אליהם ותפשו בו אביו ואמו והוציאו אתו אל זקני עירו ואל שער מקמו

ואמרו אל זקני עירו בננו זה סורר ומרה איננו שמע בקלנו זולל וסבא (21:18-20)

Our parsha discusses the laws governing the wayward and rebellious son, a 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 together take him and bring him to the beis din to be judged. There, they must 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 following week the class would be going on a field trip. Each child was to bring a signed permission slip and money to cover the expenses.

The young boy excitedly ran home to ask his father for permission and money for the trip. Sadly, 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 his scheme, responded that she would have to call his father at work to discuss it with him. His plot about to be discovered, the boy 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 Rav Kanievsky’s answer. 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, and the responsibility for his actions is not fully his but lies also with his parents for neglecting to present a unified message. 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.


ויתד תהיה לך על אזנך והיה בשבתך חוץ וחפרתה בה ושבת וכסית את צאתך (23:14)

The Jewish people are commanded to designate a place outside of their camp to serve as a bathroom and to place a shovel there to enable a person to cover his waste in order to preserve the sanctity of the camp. The Gemora in Yoma (75b) questions the need for this, as the Manna which they ate was completely spiritual and absorbed in their bodies without producing any waste. The Gemora explains that it was required due to the food items which they purchased from passing merchants.

In his commentary on Pirkei Avos (3:3), Rav Chaim Volozhiner questions why the Gemora needed to make an assumption – that they purchased and consumed food from traveling Arab merchants – and didn’t answer more directly, that this was necessary due to their consumption of sacrifices such as the Korban Shlomim, something which is explicitly discussed in the Torah.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner explains that since the sin of Adam, all food items have contained within them both valuable nutrients and unnecessary components, which humans must excrete as waste. However, food which comes from heaven, such as Manna, is purely spiritual and contains no wasteful parts, thus allowing it to be directly and completely absorbed into the body.

From the fact that the Gemora chose not to attribute the need for bathroom facilities to the consumption of the sacrifices, we must conclude that the Heavenly fire on the Altar consumed any superfluous components of the animals burned thereon, thereby elevating the meat to the status of Divine food which was completely absorbed in the body!


כי יקח איש אשה ובעלה והיה אם לא תמצא חן בעיניו כי מצא בה ערות דבר

וכתב לה ספר כריתת ונתן בידה ושלחה מביתו (24:1)

The Vilna Gaon explains that a divorce document is called a גט 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 ג and ט.

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 ג and the letter ט, 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 ג and ט. 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!


זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים (25:17)

The Kli Yakar writes (Shemos 17:8) that in relating that Amalek attacked the Jewish people in Refidim, the Torah is hinting to the source of their ability to have any power over the Jews. As long as the Jewish nation is in a state of internal peace and unity, Amalek has no ability to harm them. Refidim contains within it the letters which form the root of the word פירוד – separation – hinting to the fact that when the Jews camped there, they were stricken by strife and discord (Rashi Shemos 19:2).

The Chiddushei HaRim suggests that this is also alluded to by the Torah’s emphasis in our verse on what Amalek did לך – to (the singular) you, as they hold no sway over a united Jewish nation. Rashi writes (25:18) that Amalek struck at those who had been expelled by the Clouds of Glory from the Jewish camp as a result of their sins. Those individuals didn’t enjoy the merit of the being part of the community, and they were therefore susceptible to Amalek’s attacks.

Haman, who was descended from Amalek, learned this lesson from his ancestors. The S’fas Emes notes that Haman described to Achashverosh (Esther 3:8) his desire to eradicate an עם מפוזר ומפורד. Literally, he described the Jews as a people who are scattered and dispersed around the world, but this may also be understood as a nation of people are who separated from one another and lacking in unity.

The Shelah HaKadosh writes that Esther recognized the true source of Haman’s power and immediately began efforts to unify the nation, instructing (Esther 4:16) לך כנוס את כל היהודים – go gather together all of the Jews – not just physically but also symbolically.

Not surprisingly, it was this national togetherness which prevailed, as is memorialized in the song Shoshanas Yaakov: צהלה ושמחה בראותם יחד תכלת מרדכי – the Jewish nation was cheerful and glad when they saw together that Mordechai was robed in royal blue – a lesson which should inspire us to new levels of feeling a sense of togetherness with our fellow Jews in these difficult times for our people.


Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Parshas Ki Seitzei contains a large, disproportionate number of the 613 mitzvos. Why weren’t the commandments divided up more evenly throughout the Torah?

2) In listing the people who are permitted to return home from the battlefront, the Torah includes (20:8) one who is afraid and weak-hearted. Rashi explains that this refers to a person who is fearful that his sins will cause him to die in the battle. If those who remain to fight are so righteous as to have never committed even such a minor infraction, how could one of them fall prey to his evil inclination and desire to marry a beautiful non-Jewish woman (21:11)? (Alter from Novhardok quoted in Darkei HaShleimus, Lev Eliyahu, Me’Rosh Amanah, Arizal, Peninim MiShulchan Gevoha, Tuv’cha Yabi’u, Mas’as HaMelech)

3) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (73a) quotes 22:2 as one source for the obligation to save the life of another Jew, as if the Torah commands us to return to him his lost ox, certainly we must help return to him his very life. If somebody sees another person attempting to commit suicide, is he obligated to stop him? (Minchas Chinuch 237:2, Kli Chemdah)

4) Is a man permitted to look at himself in the mirror, or does doing so violate the prohibition (22:5) against male use of female garments? (Shulchan Aruch and Gilyon Maharsha Yoreh Deah 156:2, Shu”t Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah 2:61, Lulei Soras’cha, Derech Sicha)

5) Is it permitted to perform the mitzvah (22:6-7) of שילוח הקן – sending away the mother bird – on Shabbos? (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 100, Matamei Yaakov)

6) Because our ancestors were permitted to live in Egypt, the Torah commands us (23:8) to show appreciation by not despising an Egyptian convert and allowing the 3rd generation to marry into the Jewish people. As the Egyptians brutally enslaved and mercilessly killed our ancestors, why are required to express gratitude for such “hospitality?” (Taam V’Daas, Mishmeres Ariel)

7) The last Mishnah in Gittin (90a) contains a dispute regarding 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 a Jewish marriage, permitting them to be discarded for such trivial and superficial reasons? (Taam V’Daas, Chochmas Chaim, Rav Aryeh Levine quoted in Derech Sicha)

8) Why does the Torah punish sinners with lashes (25:1-3) rather than imprisonment?

9) A sinner may be punished with up to 40 lashes (25:1-3). Moshe remained on Mount Sinai for 40 days receiving the Torah. The rain which created the flood that destroyed the generation of Noach lasted 40 days. Our Rabbis teach that a fetus is considered formed 40 days after conception. What is the significance of the number 40, and how does it apply in each of these cases?

10) As the time in which something is forgotten is legally considered to be 12 months, is a person required in a leap year to have in mind to fulfill his obligation to remember Amalek (25:17) when it is read as part of the regular Torah portion of Ki Seitzei so as not to allow 13 months to go by between two readings of Parshas Zachor, during which time one is considered to have forgotten what he is commanded to remember? (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Even HaEzer 119, Moadim U’Zmanim 2:166, Halichos Shlomo Chapter 5 Footnote 68, Even Yisroel)


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