Father and son. (shutterstock) shutterstock
Father and son

Children learn from our actions, which means we are constantly “teaching by example.” Make sure your “lessons” imbue them with respect for others, dignity, and righteousness!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, United with Israel Rabbinic Director

This week’s Torah portion is “Ki Teitzei” (Deuteronomy 21:10–25:19) and it includes the section about a soldier at war who desires one of the female captives. It is a difficult and controversial passage known as the “Yefat To’ar” or “the captive woman.”

In brief, when a soldier sees a woman he desires, he is allowed to take her for the purpose of marriage. But before marrying her he must wait a month while she makes herself unattractive, and provide her an opportunity to mourn for her parents, whom she will ostensibly never see again.

Only after this process may he marry her. Although not explicit in the passage, the soldier was also permitted to violate the female captive once before the beginning this month-long procedure.

The commentators explain that the Torah reluctantly allowed such conduct as a response to uncontrollable human passions. In other words, if God would not have permitted soldiers to take women during war, in at least this proscribed fashion, the typical male soldier would likely be far more animalistic.

The Torah took what was an inevitable situation and reluctantly allowed it under specific conditions to prevent soldiers from likely engaging in forbidden relations with many women.

Immediately following the passage of the “Yefat To’ar” segment, we have another mind-boggling passage, that of the “Ben Sorer U’moreh,” the rebellious son.

The Torah commands us that under certain – but,thankfully, extremely rare and unusual – circumstances, a child who behaves in a gluttonous manner is put to death. One of the unusual requirements is that the child steals money to purchase and consume meat and wine.

The sages explain that any child who steals just to satisfy his appetite for meat and wine is certainly going to become an evil individual. As such, he is put to death in his youth for committing a relatively minor transgression rather than waiting until he is an evil adult who will be put to death for committing major transgressions.

This, too, is a difficult and controversial passage.

There is much discussion among the commentators as to why the passages of the captive wife and rebellious son are juxtaposed.

One explanation is that the combination of episodes provides a warning: One who takes and marries a captive woman will produce unbecoming children.

But the question is asked: Why?

True, marrying a woman whom one has taken by force as a captive is not the best way to find a spouse, but ultimately, the woman agreed to marry, and the Torah ultimately allows the marriage.

So why is the child “punished”? Why does the product of the union turn out evil?

It is explained that not everything that is permissible should be done.

So, too, one can live a life that is unbecoming without technically violating any law.

The Torah wants neither. The Torah wants a life of moderation that is dignified and in the spirit of all good manners. With this in mind, we can say that the resultant rebellious child is actually not a punishment. Rather, he is simply the natural product of a parent who is such a poor role model.

The Torah was not endorsing soldiers taking and marrying captive women. Although technically permitted, it is unbecoming and not recommended. One whose motto for life is “well, it’s not technically forbidden” is going to produce children that don’t do the right thing either.

This is a vital lesson in educating children.

The way to educate children is to teach by example. By living a Torah life. By performing acts of kindness and good deeds. It’s “monkey see, monkey do.” Parents are role models for their children.

Children pick up on everything even if we think they don’t. When a parent behaves in a dignified and respectful manner, the kids will usually grow up to be dignified and respectful adults. But if the parents live base, unbecoming, and immoral lives, don’t be surprised if the children turn out similarly. Actions speak louder than words.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-generosity-is-the-source-from-which-love-springs-eternal/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-how-does-one-good-deed-lead-to-another/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/living-torah-judaism-teaches-humility/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/honoring-ones-parents-an-insurance-policy/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/raising-children-its-not-easy/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/hwiping-out-amalek/

https://unitedwithisrael.org/a-formula-for-long-life/

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