Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The parsha of ben sorer umoreh, which we just read, is quite bizarre however you slice it. It is no wonder that chazal essentially darshen it out of existence, including among other hopeless requirements that the parents suffer no physical disabilities and (according to Rabbi Yehudah) even have identical voices. A careful reading of the pesukim and the gemara in the eighth perek of Sanhedrin suggests that this parsha is not, as is commonly thought, about the young delinquent at all. It’s about the parents.

The parents are the actors in the story. They drag their son off to the beit din and announce that they’ve given up on him and are handing him over to the court to deal with him. The beit din’s response is a rebuke to the parents. The court tells the parents, “Don’t count on us to raise your kid for you. If you’ve given up on him, we’ll just have to kill him.” It’s a rhetorical flourish and the gemara makes sure that it isn’t taken literally. In fact, some of the requirements listed in the gemara add to the message. We say to these parents, “So you’ve given up on your kid, have you? Let’s see how perfect you two are before we lay this mess on him. And did you as parents speak with a single voice?”

I confess the classical commentators don’t go this route and it does suffer from a certain American, liberal, namby-pambiness. But even if you won’t buy it as peshat, shaarei ha-drush lo nin'alu.


Anonymous zalman said...


12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Post more often! I "developed a slow ulcer" just waiting for a new post!

1:17 PM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

"But even if you won’t buy it as peshat, shaarei ha-drush lo nin'alu."
In this case - farkert - drosh ve-kabel schar!
i agree with you that there's a lot to learn from a purely 'literary' reading of ben sorer u-moreh.
regarding the voices, i read it differently - that specifically when the parents speak in the same voice, they run the risk of creating a ben sorer u-moreh. each parent must have a disting voice (now THAT'S namby-pamby).

8:01 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Quite right about drosh vekabel schar. And you definitely win on namby-pambiness. Feh.

9:04 PM  
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7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much,
It is still eating my Kishkes- the Whole Killing while still Zackai, Bechira issue,Impossibility of future Teshuva.
Your little twist, although as you say, not P'shat,
helps dull the ache a little.

7:46 PM  

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