Ki Seitzei 5778

RABBI REUVEN GERSON

In every aspect of life, there are people who achieve expertise. Intelligent people realize that if they are uncertain about something, then they must turn to the experts for clarification. Doubts in Torah Law can also arise. In such a situation, the Torah commands that we acknowledge that in Torah there are also experts, and that their expertise demands that we defer to them.
Everyone’s responsibility to Torah observance is personal. Every individual has the responsibility to do what the Torah demands of him, and to make the correct decisions as to what the Torah’s demands are. Recognizing one’s inability to decide a question of Torah law then becomes an exercise in humility. Accepting the decision of the supreme Beis Din extends the exercise, for after all we all must have, and do have, opinions about the Mitzvos of the Torah. That is the mitzvah of asking and accepting the dictates of the Chachomim.
There are parallels to this idea in Parshas Shoftim and Parshas Haazinu. In Parshas Haazinu, the Torah says, “Ask your father and he will tell you, the wise and they will relate to you.” It is apparent that this Parsha is not discussing only Mitzvos; rather, even general issues of life and the world are included. What appears strange is that the Torah gives the answer also. “When Hashem apportioned to the nations their inheritance and when He separated the many nations, He did it according to the number of Bnei Yisrael.” Apparently, there is an eternal question which bothers every generation. Each generation has unique questions and challenges. Yet, the questions have the same answer!
We can clearly see that doubts arise when things appear similar. The wisdom to differentiate between two similar objects or circumstances requires skill and expertise. To realize that two things are similar, but not the same, requires intelligence. To accept the judgment of the expert demands submission.
It follows, therefore, that if any of these attributes is lacking, then even in general questions, those of one’s outlook on the world, the result will not be in keeping with the Torah’s outlook. For the Torah says, “Ask of the wise even those questions.” The stock answer is, “Hashem divided up the world. There is a boundary for the Bnei Adam and a boundary for Bnei Yisrael.”
At times, we are able to see the difference between these two worlds. Their philosophies are obviously not ours. However, there are times when we find ourselves confused, as the two possibilities seem viable, or compatible. When this happens then it is time for introspection. It is time to clarify which aspect of the procedure is missing. Is it the lack of intelligence to recognize the difference, or is it the lack of submission to the dictates of the Torah?
The month of Elul is a time for appreciating the desperate need for self-recognition, introspection, and then honest commitment to the dictates of the Torah. Even when we feel convinced that we know our right from our left, with renewed and more honest introspection we will find so much to correct.
It is a time to evaluate our ambitions and aspirations, to assess if they are in keeping with what we intuitively know to be the wish of Hashem.

RABBI YECHIEL ROZEN

כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה (דברים כא:יח)

When there will be to a man a rebellious son… (Devarim 21:18)

Rashi ((דברים כא:יא cites the Tanchuma that explains why the Torah juxtaposed the Parsha of בן סורר ומורה to that of יפת תואר, the beautiful captive woman. One who takes for himself a יפת תואר, allowing for his desires to rule over him, will result in the making of aבן סורר ומורה. However, there is a third Parsha that makes its way in between. That is the Parsha of the inheritance of a Bechor and the extra portion he receives. Where does this fit in to the message of בן סורר ומורה?
The Shem Mishmuel writes that the Torah is revealing the reason why there is no future for this boy and his life is therefore ended abruptly. The Torah is demonstrating the great power that lies within the beginning of any endeavor, especially life itself. The time period within which a boy can become a בן סורר ומורה, c.v., is only the immediate three months of his entering manhood. This is the start of his life as a man, and he spoiled it. This choice has an irreversible impact on the rest of his life.
This idea is reflected in the Parsha of Bechor. A Bechor is the first in his family. He sets the tone. If he pursues the right way of life, his siblings will follow suit. Indeed, it was the Bechorim who were initially charged with the job of Avodas HaKorbanos in each family. It is in this vein that Klal Yisrael is referred to as בני בכורי ישראל (שמות ד:כב), “My firstborn son is Israel” (Shemos 4:22), for Klal Yisrael among the nations is likened to the Bechor within a family. It is Bnei Yisrael’s job to show the nations the true path.
Because of this responsibility, the Bechor merits a double portion, for his work merits his brothers as well.
From here we learn the great opportunity that lies within a beginning. When one wakes up in the morning and starts his day by putting on Tzitzis and Tefillin, running to daven and to learn Torah, he has begun a new day with Kedusha. His day will be positive and he will feel strong and accomplished, rising to the daily challenges. Rosh Hashana is literally the beginning of the year. It is referred to in the Torah as (דברים יא:יב) מרשית השנה; this is a person’s chance to begin anew, to start fresh. All prior hang-ups, all of last year’s “shackles,” can be thrown off. He can start fresh, with new hope and new commitment. This is the great Bracha that lies within the beginning.
The ability to restart is inherent in the nature of Klal Yisrael. The Jewish year is counted by the months of the moon. Every month, the moon renews and begins again.
Klal Yisrael is referred to as ראשית תבואתה (ירמיה ב:ג), Hashem’s first ”grain”(Yirmayahu 2:3), because our very nature is to constantly renew ourselves and our commitment to Torah and Mitzvos. And through the aliveness and freshness, through the renewed passion, we can overcome the Yetzer Hara, who is referred to as Zakein Uksil, old and foolish. He tries to weigh us down with all our past feelings and hindrances, telling us we are old, we can’t change, we aren’t fresh and youthful. And we respond, קדש ישראל לד’ ראשית תבואתה, “Yisrael is Kodesh to Hashem, His fine grain” (ibid)!