Shabbat Ki-Teitzei 5782
There isn’t a person alive who didn’t aggravate his or her parents, at least a little. Some of us, or our children, may have even been a tad rebellious. Some may have exceeded the “a tad” part. But it remains jarring to me on an annual basis when we read Parshat Ki-Teitzei, to encounter the law of the bein sorer umoreh, the utterly rebellious son whose behavior is deemed so beyond the pale that he is to be executed.
I’m clearly not the only student of Torah to find this passage jarring. The sages of antiquity seemed to go out of their interpretive way to render this law functionally impossible. They read each and every word and phrase of the passage to introduce almost unreachable criteria to the category of bein sorer umoreh. For example, since the Torah’s text has the parents say “He does not need our voice,” the rabbis determined that a child could be deemed rebellious if both parents had identical voices. What are the chances of that?
The punchline of the Talmudic analysis of this law is: “There has never been an utterly rebellious son, and there never will be one. Why, then, was it written? So you might expound on it and receive reward” (Bavli Sanhedrin 71a). This may seem like a cop-out, giving the Torah a fairly easy out. But I actually think this teaching cuts to the core of Torah. Learning for learning’s sake is a fundamental Jewish value. The rabbis are demanding that we look at Torah beyond its surface depth and insisting that such an exercise brings divine reward. No wonder the ratio of text to commentary in classic Jewish books is heavily tilted in the direction of commentary!
Since this parshah has an enormous concentration of mitzvot, I wanted to share music connected to a few of its other themes. As you read the portion, see if you can find the connections:
Rami Kleinstein’s beautiful song, Ruhot Milhamah (Winds of War) captures the pain of a soldier leaving family behind when called up in a military emergency. No wonder the Torah forbids a husband to go off to war during the first year of marriage!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise
Candle lighting: 6:56 PM
Torah Reading: Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-55:5