Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The reformative laws of Ki Teitzei

Summary: In inheritance law, in treatment of rebellious children, and in giving women a voice. HaMaamar on some of the laws and their details, in parashat Ki Teitzei.

Post: In the past, I've written about how the laws in parashat Ki Teitzei should be viewed in light of prevailing customs of the day, and as corrective reforms to improve the rights of the weak and powerless. Thus, for eshet yefar toar, and for ben sorer umoreh.

In terms of ben sorer umoreh, I see that HaMaamar said something along the same lines. But he also develops this theme throughout other mitzvos and aspects of mitzvos, in the parashah. This includes familial inheritance and whether judges listen at all to the statement of the mother. Thus:

"(15) When there is to a man: It is known that in those days, each man was ruler in his house in accordance with his soul's desire, with none to stand in the way. He would oppress, in his anger, his wife and children, and no one could tell him what to do. However, our complete Torah, whose ways are all pleasant, did not grant permission to any man to pervert the rules of man, whatever they would be, and placed a statute and boundary both for the ruler of one's home and the ruler of nations. And therefore, it was not in the hands of the father to grant firstborn rights to one of his sons over that of his brother, who had the {true} rule of being firstborn. 

And since the primary double-portion applied to inheritance of field and vineyards, and they have already said that the firstborn does not take from the potential just as by the muchzak, therefore the mitzvah appears in Mishneh Torah {Devarim}, as they entered the land.

(18) When a man has a rebellious son: This is further fencing in the power of the father, such that he should not rule as he wishes over his sons. And it stated that even if the son is stubborn and rebellious, and does not listen to his father's voice -- and according to the laws of the nations, it would be in the hand of his father to smite him unto death, such shall not be done in Israel. Rather, they will bring him before those who know religion and law, and upon their words it shall be.

And behold, the gist of this mitzvah is already encompassed in the mitzvah of honoring one's father and mother.

(19) And his father and mother shall seize him: It states 'his father and mother' to teach that in the laws of children, there is power to the mother just as to the father, in place of what existed in those days, that her words were not heard at all, and the judges only listened to the father."

He continues this in other explanations on this parashah, though I don't know that I agree with every detail.

The other day, on DovBear, I saw the following video of a frum father disciplining his daughter outside the kotel, until (secular) outsiders intervened. Subsequently, the father was deported outside of Israel:

This would seem to be an example of where society at large intervenes and prevents the over-disciplining by parents. On the other hand, in the pesukim of ben sorer umoreh, mention is made that prior to bringing him to the elders, ויסרו אותו ולא ישמע עליהם. Where Rashi defines for us this as:

ויסרו אותו: מתרין בו בפני שלשה ומלקין אותו.

Perhaps this is already a quasi-court? The nature of disciplining children has changed, and what was once acceptable no longer is. I think this is a good direction that Western society, as a whole, has taken.


Mike S. said...

I believe Rashi is based on a gemara in Sanhedrin where it is the beit din of 3 that administers the makkot, so it would fit with your theme.

joshwaxman said...


Indeed, you are right. The gemara is Sanhedrin 71a-b. The Mishna is on amud aleph, and on amud beis:

Why so? Are not two sufficient? — Abaye answered: The Mishnah means this: He is admonished in the presence of two,2 and ordered lashes by a court of three.3


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