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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5755) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of RabbiYissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torahportion: Tape # 20, Non-Halachic Marriage Ceremonies. Good Shabbos!

Better Let Him Die Now Innocent, Than Die Later Guilty

At the beginning of this week’s parsha we have the portion of Ben Soreru’Moreh (the wayward and rebellious son). The Gemara in Sanhedrin talksabout the various ways in which a child becomes a Ben Sorer u’Moreh. Thechild steals, eats a certain amount of meat, drinks a certain amount ofwine and subsequent to that he has a status of Ben Sorer u’Moreh.

The Talmud asks the obvious question — for these minor infractions heshould be deserving of death? The Gemarah answers, he is not put to deathfor what he has done now, but he is “nidan al shem sofo” (he is judgedbased on where this pattern of behavior will end up). The text of ourGemara [Bavli Sanhedrin 72a] is “in the end he will drive his parentsbankrupt, and will turn to robbery, and ultimately to murder…”consequently “…he should better die innocent, than die guilty.”

The Talmud Yerushalmi [Sanhedrin 8:7] has virtually the same text as theBavli, except that the Yerushalmi concludes the sequence of bankruptcy,robbery, and murder with “…and finally, he will forget his learning”. This Yerushalmi is amazing!

The Rosh Yeshiva, zt”l, (R. Yaakov Ruderman) used to always say that wesee from this Yerushalmi a powerful insight: No matter how bad a persongets, as long as he still has a relationship to Limud HaTorah (thelearning of Torah), there is hope. Not that chas v’sholem the Yerushalmiis condoning the type of person who does all types of forbidden things andclaims that since he still learns Torah he is a Tzadik. The Yerushalmi ismerely saying that as bad as a person is, all hope is not lost so long ashe has a relationship to Torah learning. The power of Torah is so strong,that it can still bring him back.

In our experience we have seen this. People may have strayed from thecorrect path in many areas, but as long as they still had a “shaychus” tolearning, there was still hope for them. However, once a person does allthese things and forgets his learning… then there is no hope. Concerning this the Yerushalmi says, “Let him better die (now) innocent,than die (later) guilty”.

Steipler’s Comment on the Change in Spelling of the word Moreh

The Torah introduces the chapter of the Rebellious son with the words “Ifa person has a son who is wayward and rebellious (Bein Sorer u”Moreh)…”[Devorim 21:18]. Here the word Moreh (Rebellious) is spelled “full”Mem-Vov-Resh-Hei. However, in later describing how the parents introducetheir son to the Elders of the city, the Torah writes “This son of ours iswayward and rebellious (Sorer u’Moreh)…” [Devorim 21:20]. Here the wordMoreh is spelled “defective” Mem-Resh-Hei.

The Steipler Rav, zt”l, says the Torah is here alluding to some blame thatthe parents must accept for having such a child. We all know how we asparents love our children and we all know that we sometimes fail to see inour children glaring deficiencies. It’s natural and normal. Love cansometimes warp a person’s perception of reality and who do we love morethan our own children? These are the facts: Parents sometimes fail tosee the shortcomings of their children.

The Steipler says that this is what the Torah is telling us here: Whenthe child first started acting out and behaving poorly, the parents failedto see the shortcomings in their child. The “Moreh” (teacher) in theparents was defective. They did not see the full extent of hismisbehavior. They let it go and they looked the other way.

What unfortunately happened is that one thing led to another until theyhad on their hands a full-fledged Ben Sorer u’Moreh. This is what theTorah is hinting at… If a man has a child that is obviously (spelling is”full”) wayward and rebellious, this may well have come about because at aprior stage the parents failed to recognize the shortcomings (“defective”spelling) of their child.

Sefer HaChinuch: Broad Application of the Prohibition of “Ox & Donkey”

Inthis week’s portion we have the prohibition of Kelaei Behemah — one isnot allowed to work with two different animals under the same yoke: “Donot plow with an ox and a donkey together” [25:4]. The Sefer haChinuch,as is his custom, gives a reason for this commandment: The reason is”Tz’ar baalei chayim” (causing pain to animals).

He explains that animals don’t like to be together with different types ofanimals, and certainly not to work together under the same yoke. TheChinuch goes on to say, “…and every one who is wise in heart will take alesson from this not to appoint two people of different natures andtemperaments to work together on the same project.” If the Torah isconcerned about the pain such joint harnessing will cause to animals,certainly we should be concerned about human suffering that can come frominappropriate match-ups.

The Altar Sheds Tears for Those Unable to “Sacrifice”

Finally, in thisweek’s portion we have the section of Divorce. The Torah recognizes thatperhaps there are two people that are just too different and too distinctto remain together and so it introduces the concept of a Divorce (“Get”)to terminate the marriage.

The Gemara says in Tractate Gittin [90b] that a Divorce is a terriblething. When two people get divorced “even the Altar sheds tears.” Thereis much homiletic comment on why specifically it is the Altar (as opposed,for example, to the Table or the Menorah) that does this weeping.

One of the comments made is that the Altar is the place of Sacrifices. What is a Sacrifice? It is that a person has to realize that sometimes wehave to Sacrifice in life. Really I should have to sacrifice myself,except that the Torah gave a parsha of “Korbonos”, that allows for animalsacrifice in lieu of self-sacrifice. The Altar symbolizes the concept ofSacrifice in Jewish life.

Invariably most if not all divorces come about because people are notwilling to sacrifice. Whether a person gets divorced because ofextra-marital affairs or because of other things, the root causes arealways because people are selfish; they are into “themselves”, and notwilling to give. The external causes are just a manifestation of a deeperproblem — a sickness of selfishness, an inability to sacrifice and togive up of oneself for someone else.

It is therefore most appropriate that the Altar which represents theconcept of Sacrifice sheds tears for those who were unable to sacrificeand as a result had to go through the sad chapter of “Get”.


Yerushalmi, Bavli — The Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi) is an earlier version of the Talmud, redacted by Rabbi Yochanan (182-279) and his disciples in Tiberias with the concurrence of the Sages of Jerusalem. The Babylonian Talmud (Bavli) was the more accepted Talmud since it was compiled (100-150 years) later and was assumed to include the accepted opinions of the Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi, conversely, contains many important earlier opinions that are omitted in the Bavli [from The Living Torah by R. Aryeh Kaplan]
shaychus — relationship with as in “shaychus” to learningKorbonos — sacrifices
Get — Divorce (document)
Kilaei Behemah (Zeraim, haKerem, Begadim) — Forbidden “mixture” of animals (seeds, seeds in vineyard, clothing — i.e. wool & linen);

Personalities & Sources:

R. Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman — (1901-1987) Rosh Yeshiva and founder (1933) of Ner Israel Rabbinical College; Baltimore, Maryland
Steipler Gaon — R. Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899-1985); Bnei Brak
Sefer HaChinuch — (R. Aharon haLevi) Classic work on the 613 commandments; 13th century Spain

Transcribed by David Twersky Assistance by Dovid Hoffman

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Torah Tapes on the weekly Torah portion (#20). The corresponding halachic portion for this tape is: # 20, Non-Halachic Marriage Ceremonies. other halachic portions for Parshas Ki Seitzei from the Commuter Chavrusah Series are:

  • Tape # 065 – Polygamy and the Cherem of Rabeinu Gershom
  • Tape # 110 – Mamzeirus: Possible Solutions?
  • Tape # 156 – Reconciling Divergent Customs Between Husband and Wife
  • Tape # 203 – The Pre-War “Get”
  • Tape # 250 – The Mitzvah of Ma’akeh
  • Tape # 293 – “Get Me’useh”: The Problem of the “Forced Get”
  • Tape # 339 – Shana Reshona — The First Year of Marriage

Tapes or a complete catalogue can be ordered from:

Yad Yechiel Institute
Call (410) 358-0416 for further information.

Also Available: Mesorah / Artscroll has published a collection of Rabbi Frand’s essays. The book is entitled:

Rabbi Yissocher Frand: In Print

and is available through Project Genesis On-Line Bookstore: