Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Running Commentary on parashat Ki Teitzei, part iii

See part one and part two. Consider this an interlude, before the actual analysis.

Ki Teitzei continues with rebellious son, the Ben Sorer UMoreh. Chazal say בן סורר ומורה לא היה ולא עתיד להיות ולמה נכתב דרוש וקבל שכר, that the Ben Sorer Umoreh never existed nor will exist in the future, and it is written in the Torah in order to interpret it and receive reward. I intend to show how this is peshat in the pesukim. This will be a lengthy introduction, prior to actual interpretation of the verses.

Recall that, as discussed in part one, the purpose of the legislation regarding the female captive was to restrict the power of the captors. While he indeed was able to to eventually sleep with her, he first needed to allow her to regain her humanity, remove her soiled clothing of captivity, engage in normal hygienic practices (of haircut and trimming her nails), mourn for her family for a decent amount of time, enter a normal calm home, and so on. Then, if he wished to sleep with her, she would not be chattel, and a sex slave. She would be the equivalent of a full Israelite wife. If he changed his mind, he could not simply pass her on as a sex slave to his friend. He would divorce her and let her go free. The moral rules of society restrict the actions of the victors of the battle.

Recall that, as discussed in part two, the purpose of the legislation regarding inheritance of the favored vs. unfavored sons is to restrict the whims of the father. Just because he preferred one wife over the other, he cannot dismiss the rights of the firstborn, because those supersede his individual preferences. This mishpat habechora is set by society. As we see in the Code of Hammurabi, if a father wished to disinherit his son, this is not his choice to make. He would bring his case before judges who would decide on its merits.

The pesukim [Devarim 21]:
יח  כִּי-יִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ, בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה--אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקוֹל אָבִיו וּבְקוֹל אִמּוֹ; וְיִסְּרוּ אֹתוֹ, וְלֹא יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵיהֶם.18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, that will not hearken to the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him, will not hearken unto them;
יט  וְתָפְשׂוּ בוֹ, אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ; וְהוֹצִיאוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל-זִקְנֵי עִירוֹ, וְאֶל-שַׁעַר מְקֹמוֹ.19 then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
כ  וְאָמְרוּ אֶל-זִקְנֵי עִירוֹ, בְּנֵנוּ זֶה סוֹרֵר וּמֹרֶה--אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקֹלֵנוּ; זוֹלֵל, וְסֹבֵא.20 and they shall say unto the elders of his city: 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he doth not hearken to our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.'
כא  וּרְגָמֻהוּ כָּל-אַנְשֵׁי עִירוֹ בָאֲבָנִים, וָמֵת, וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ; וְכָל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, יִשְׁמְעוּ וְיִרָאוּ.  {ס}21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put away the evil from the midst of thee; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. {S}

Now we see a restriction on family law, that while extreme rebelliousness and familial ingratitude combined with corruption is still a capitol offense, the decision to impose the penalty and the execution of this penalty is taken out of the hands of the mother and father. If they seek to impose this penalty on their son, they must state their case before the the court, which evaluates the situation and comes to a judgement.

There is then certainly a reformative spirit to this law, moving from a more primitive, brutal, and self-interested family law ("he didn't clean up his toys! I'll kill him!") to a fairer, more objective societal law. And it is up to the courts to decide. And Chazal can direct the courts how to decide. Plus, al pi haTorah asher yorucha. As society develops and matures, this entire idea of capital punishment for lack of familial obeisance should really be discarded. And thus, when it is put in the hands of the courts, they can declare that this is not something that should be penalized. Or they can accomplish this using legal maneuverings, by setting the requirements for a valid case extremely high (as the gemara indeed does). Thus, even if at some point in history (and this is likely so), Ben Sorers were punished, once these restrictions were set in place, they have set the bar so high that no Ben Sorer could possibly have existed in the past or could exist in the future. Thus,  בן סורר ומורה לא היה ולא עתיד להיות.

Even so, the Torah is nitzchiyus. Honoring one's parents, avoiding gluttony and drunkenness, etc., is very important, and we often know how important something is by the penalty spelled out by the Torah. This law stays on the books and we can deduce important ideas from it and receive reward. למה נכתב דרוש וקבל שכר.

כִּי-יִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ -- It does not start with כִּי-יִהְיֶה בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה, when there be a stubborn and rebellious son. Rather, this is told from the perspective of the man who has this son. Just like כִּי-תִהְיֶיןָ לְאִישׁ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים. How shall he be able to deal with his son?

בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה -- we have no local definition of what behavior is "stubborn" and "rebellious". Perhaps the continuation of the pasuk forms the local definition, אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקוֹל אָבִיו וּבְקוֹל אִמּוֹ,  or perhaps pasuk 20 distributes across, with sorer as אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ, בְּקֹלֵנוּ and umoreh as זוֹלֵל, וְסֹבֵא. Thus, with underlying misbehavior as well as unwillingness to heed parental correction.

To be continued, perhaps more in depth.

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