Friday, August 28, 2009

Parshat Ki Tetzei - פרשת כי תצא

Having spent a number of hours looking at this week's parsha and not finding one specific topic that I feel I can make one long D'var Torah out of, I hope you don't mind my sharing a number of smaller bits and pieces that I found interesting.

The first thing I'd like to comment on is the opening passage of the Parsha; כי תצא למלחמה על איביך, when you will go out to war on your enemies. The Or Hachaim points out that surely there is no need to mention that the war is being waged on enemies; so why are they mentioned?

I was at a good friend's wedding last night and he mentioned in his dvar Torah that at the end of this Parsha, we read of how we are commanded never to forget Amalek. The only problem is, the Chatan pointed out, that today there is no nation of Amalek, nor any people immediately recognisable as their descendants.

To reconcile this problem, we have to refer back to the beginning of the parsha and understand that Amalek is not an enemy that one faces in a direct way. When one goes out to war, one has to constantly bear in mind who and what his enemy is. Amalek is a nation that caused Am Yisrael to doubt in Hashem, and we have to constantly be aware that this kind of doubt has the potential to lead us to sin. It's very easy to think to oneself that "it's not that bad" to give in and as such, when one fights this battle against the Yetzer Hara, it is imperative to keep in mind exactly what we are up against.

The next point I'd like to make is made by the Vilna Gaon. The second topic in the Parsha is that of the double portion inherited by a firstborn son. In Hebrew, words with the letter vav may often be spelled without the vav, and this happens to be the case here, with the word בכור (firstborn) , which is spelled without the vav. The Vilna Gaon notess that the remaining letters, the root letters, of this word all hint at the double portion accorded the first born. He explains that the numerical value for each letter is a "double" in its own right; ב is equivalent to 2, כ is equal to 20, and ר has the value of 200; a rather neat hint, I think you'll agree.

A little further along the Parsha, in the second Aliyah, we read of the case of the Ben Sorer u'Moreh - the rebellious and wayward son. (Or me, as my father loved to tell me when I was younger!)

Alhough the punishment in this case is extremely severe, (a Ben Sorer u'Moreh would be hanged,) Chazal basically expounded the chances of a person being deemed a Ben Sorer u'Moreh out of existence. There are so many limitations, cirrcumstances anc criteria that had to be met that it comes as no surprise that the Bet Din never found anyone guilty of this particular sin.

Be that as it may, there's a lot to be learned from this particular episode. In my D'var Torah last year, I mentioned how there is a crucial lesson in parenting in the Pasuk here, כא:יח, which I partially quote: "איננו שמע בקול אביו ובקול אמו ויסרו אתו, [who] doesn't listen to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they turned him away."

If we break the Pasuk up and digest it in pieces, we see that the son doesn't listen to "the voice of his father" and then separately his mother's voice is mentioned, "and the voice of his mother." The pasuk uses separate clauses for each of his parents, and only groups them together when the son hears them speaking in unison. And the one thing that the parents agree upon is negative, as it says "they turned him away."

It is very clear that the lesson to be grasped here is that parents must always act as a unit, and not just when it comes to condemning a child. A child who hears disparate voices from his parents hardly has a chance at growing up to become a decent person.

Two P'sukim after the one above, we read of how the the parents go to the city elders to declare their son a Ben Sorer u'Moreh: "וְאָמְרוּ אֶל זִקְנֵי עִירוֹ בְּנֵנוּ זֶה סוֹרֵר וּמֹרֶה אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ בְּקֹלֵנוּ זוֹלֵל וְסֹבֵא / And they shall say to 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.'"

The Ba'al HaTurim notes two discrepancies in this Pasuk. Firstly, there is a yud missing in the word בְּנֵנוּ, and then the word וּמֹרֶה is missing a letter too; this time a vav.

Fortunately for us, the Ba'al HaTurim explains why these words are spelled as they are. In the first case, the missing yud in the word בְּנֵנוּ, our son, is a deliberate reference to the Aseret Hadibrot. The Ba'al HaTurim briefly explains that that this son was wayward to the extent that he didn't care about the most basic tenets of Judaism, wayward to the extent that he even disregarded the ten commandments.

The next missing letter, the vav in the word מרה, stubborn, is explained as a reference to the bitter end of this situation. The word מרה in Hebrew means bitter, and by dropping the vav, the Torah hints that this stubborn and gluttonous boy will only experience bitterness.

Wishing you a שבת שלום ומבורך from Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh.

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