Friday, September 12, 2008

Another D'var torah I found online

And here’s an adaptation of another D’var Torah, this one from Torah Web.

The Ben sorer u'Moreh is not punished at any time in his life, it is particularly between the ages of thirteen and thirteen-and-a-half that the rules of Ben sorer u'Moreh apply. Why is this? We could be excused for thinking that a man at the age of 40, one who has seen a lot in his lifetime, and should therefore be able to discern between right and wrong, surely he should be held more liable to sin than a mere child?

Apparently this is not so.

It is precisely in his youthfulness that Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch sees an important message regarding Chinuch. The thirteen year old child new to his responsibilities and contributions should naturally feel within in him some thrill and excitement in them. The newly arrived yetzer hatov with its attendant interest in doing good and with the maturing sense of self, give the fresh bar or bat mitzvah immeasurable potential. This potential and optimism should happily inform his ambitions even as it shapes the nachas that his elders envision. A portal to all of this is the care with which new bar mitzvah boys don their Tefillin which we hope will last for a very long life. Similarly we have come to expect that a fresh bar mitzvah will be quick to pray with a Minyan and we pray that this becomes a lifelong routine practice. Even if not sustained due to the busyness of life and competing interests, rahcmana litzlan, this initial excitement shows a natural affinity for the Mitzvot. It bodes well for the future and can surely be built upon, at later moments of inspiration and periods of spiritual growth.

However the Ben sorer u’Moreh which only applies during the first three month post bar mitzvah, indicates a total disregard for the natural uplift of the nascent Yetzer Hatov. Hedonistic pleasure has successfully disconnected the young man from any excitement or simple sense of newness that should inform his disposition at this time. It is that emotional flatness and total indifference to spiritual growth which sadly predicts that the Torah will uncharacteristically never touch his heart or mind.

Rav Hirsch's insight should certainly give us direction as we celebrate our children's entry into "Ol Mitzvot", as well as all their milestones and ours. How important it must be to encourage the excited anticipation of the privilege and distinction afforded to us by His Mitzvot.

Perhaps this helps us understand the upcoming Rosh Hashana better, which has us celebrate even as we grow anxious pondering the judgment that we face and the standards to which we will be held. As concerned as we may be, the fresh start and the newness of the upcoming year with all its potential and optimism indeed gives us much reason to celebrate. This optimism may be a very potent prayer for Hashem's kindness and compassion as we stand before Him.

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