Parashas Ki Seitzei

One of the many topics in this week’s parashah is that of the wayward son – a youth whose deliquency creates a need to put him to death, before he ravages his soul completely. The lad’s parents are to take him to the town elders and declare (Devarim 21:20): “This son of ours is wayward and rebellious; he does not listen to our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” The Maggid poses two questions. First, given the parents’ statement that their son is wayward and rebellious, what does it add to say that he does not listen? Second, given the statement that the lad is wayward, rebellious, and does not listen, what does it add to say that he is a glutton and a drunkard? After all, it is not for these specific misdeeds that the youth is to be put to death. What is the point, then, of mentioning them?
The Maggid answers as follows. Parents have two basic duties: to care for their child’s physical needs, and to promote their child’s spiritual growth through appropriate guidance and discipline. When a child depends on his parents for his physical needs, the parents can exert moral control – the child will not get his physical needs met unless he listens. He may occasionally disobey, but on the whole he must do as he is told. But when a child strikes out on his own, stealing to finance a life of gluttony and drinking, the parents have no hold over him. Thus, the Maggid explains, the parents’ declaration is to be understood as follows: “Our son will surely grow wayward and rebellious toward Hashem. For he does not listen to us, yet he has become a glutton and a drunkard. He manages on his own; we have lost our hold on him.”
The Maggid then uses this idea to shed light on the following passage (Yirmiyah 5:23-25):
This people has a wayward and rebellious heart; they turned aside and left. They did not say within their hearts, “Let us fear Hashem our God, Who provides rain … in its proper season ….“ Your inquities have brought this about, and your sins have kept bounty from you.
When Yirmiyahu says “your iniquities have brought this about,” what does the word “this” refer to? It apparently does not refer to Divine punishment, for the preceding verses do not mention any. Rather, the Maggid says, Yirmiyahu is referring to the people’s lack of fear of Hashem. If we reflect on this indifference to Hashem, we realize that it is a real enigma. We could perhaps understand that the people, out of sheer spiritual emptiness, might not be awed by Hashem’s greatness. But why do they not, at least, fear Hashem out of concern that He might withold rain and leave them without sustenance? The Maggid answers by saying that the people are trying to manage on their own power; instead of relying on Hashem to provide for them, they seek to meet their needs by stealing and other illicit means. They therefore refuse to submit to Hashem’s discipline. They have cut themselves off from Hashem.
The Torah states (Vayikra 25:17): “You shall not cheat one another, and you shall fear your God.” If we refrain from cheating others, we will instill the fear of Hashem in our hearts.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.