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לימוד תורה

It started long before it happened

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in the everyday life – Parashat Ki Tetze – 5780

In memory of the late Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg (Former chief justice- Dayan of the Jerusalem Rabbinical High Court)

Recently, a shocking rape case was published that stirred, and rightly so, the public discourse. Many saw it as an expression of a serious deterioration in moral norms and educational and value failures. But not many, have given their opinion that this is not something created now, out of nowhere, it started long before it happened. This is the result of a change process of many years. Today we only see the result. It started with small permissive changes that were accepted with forgiveness and understanding and over time grew. It is probable that those who approved then, in their short-sightedness, allowed the changes, and were not wise to see the future and where it might lead us in the long run. And only then, when they are exposed to the shocking results, they realize but in retrospect. And then it is more difficult to bring about change and return the situation to its former state.

In our Parasha there is a collection of mitzvot that have a deep connection between them:

The Cohen anointed to accompany the army in battle כֹּהֵן מְשׁוּחַ מִלְחָמָה

and the officials in a Mandatory war, והשוטרים במלחמת מצוה

the calf whose neck was broken הָעֶגְלָ֖ה הָעֲרוּפָ֥ה,

a beautiful woman, אֵ֖שֶׁת יְפַת־תֹּ֑אַר

the son of the loved one and the son of the unloved one, בֶּן־הָ֣אֲהוּבָ֔ה ובֶן־הַשְּׂנוּאָ֖ה

and a wayward and defiant son בֵּ֚ן סוֹרֵ֣ר וּמוֹרֶ֔ה

They all have a common denominator; the Torah seeks to prevent in advance, processes that may cause long-term damage.

When going to a Discretionary War  מִלְחֶמֶת הָרְשׁוּת

וְהָיָ֕ה כְּקָֽרָבְכֶ֖ם אֶל־הַמִּלְחָמָ֑ה וְנִגַּ֥שׁ הַכֹּהֵ֖ן וְדִבֶּ֥ר אֶל־הָעָֽם… אַל־יֵרַ֣ךְ לְבַבְכֶ֗ם אַל־תִּֽירְא֧וּ וְאַֽל־תַּחְפְּז֛וּ וְאַל־תַּֽעַרְצ֖וּ מִפְּנֵיהֶֽם׃

Before you join battle, the priest shall come forward and address the troops…. Let not your courage falter. Do not be in fear, or in panic, or in dread of them” (Devarim 20:2-3)

One should expect from the outset, that once the battle begins, there will be those whom fear may paralyze them. It is forbidden to wait until this happens, then it will be too late, they should be kept away from the battlefield in the first place:

וְיָסְפ֣וּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים֮ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־הָעָם֒ וְאָמְר֗וּ מִי־הָאִ֤ישׁ הַיָּרֵא֙ וְרַ֣ךְ הַלֵּבָ֔ב יֵלֵ֖ךְ וְיָשֹׁ֣ב לְבֵית֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יִמַּ֛ס אֶת־לְבַ֥ב אֶחָ֖יו כִּלְבָבֽוֹ׃

“The officials shall go on addressing the troops and say, “Is there anyone afraid and disheartened? Let him go back to his home, lest the courage of his comrades flag like his.” (ibid 8)

Then the part with the calf whose neck was broken:

כִּי־יִמָּצֵ֣א חָלָ֗ל בָּאֲדָמָה֙ …נֹפֵ֖ל בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖ע מִ֥י הִכָּֽהוּ׃

If, in the land… someone slain is found lying in the open, the identity of the slayer not being known” (ibid 21:1)

The elders of the town nearest to the corpse make this declaration:

וְעָנ֖וּ וְאָמְר֑וּ יָדֵ֗ינוּ לֹ֤א שָֽׁפְכוּ֙ אֶת־הַדָּ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְעֵינֵ֖ינוּ לֹ֥א רָאֽוּ׃

“Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done”. (ibid 7).

וְכִי עָלְתָה עַל לֵב שֶׁזִּקְנֵי בֵית דִּין שׁוֹפְכֵי דָמִים הֵם? אֶלָּא לֹא רְאִינוּהוּ וּפְטַרְנוּהוּ בְּלֹא מְזוֹנוֹת וּבְלֹא לְוָיָה

But would it enter anyone’s mind that the elders of the court are suspect of blood-shedding?! But the meaning of the declaration is: We never saw him and knowingly let him depart without food or escort” (Rashi ibid)

In other words, in order to prevent, the danger of passers-by in advance, the elders of the city must take responsibility for accompanying them.

Contemplate the possibilities from the beginning, not as a conclusion, in retrospect, after it already happened.

Sages also pointed out in our Parsha the connection and proximity between the case of the beautiful woman, and the case of the son of the loved one and the son of the unloved one, and the law of a wayward and defiant son:

אם נשאה סופה להיות שנואה, ואם ילדה, סופו להיות בן סורר ומורה, ואם חס עליו: סופו להיות נידון, ולהיות נסקל ונתלה במעשיו המקולקלין, ולכך סמכו זו לזו.

If the married one’s end is to be hated, and if her child, his end is to be a rebellious and defiant son, and if he is spared from death, maybe in the future his end will be to be condemned, and to be stoned and hanged for his corrupt actions, and therefore they were mentioned next to each other.” (Bekhor Shor Devarim 21:15).

It is probable that the person who married a beautiful woman did not imagine in the short term where things would lead in the long run, and neither would we have imagined it. However, the Torah has pointed this out from the beginning. This is also the case with the rare law of a “refractory and rebellious son”. We might not see now the serious actions he might do in adulthood, but the Torah takes it all the way to the beginning:

וּבֵן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה נֶהֱרָג עַל שֵׁם סוֹפוֹ, הִגִּיעָה תוֹרָה לְסוֹף דַּעְתּוֹ, סוֹף שֶׁמְּכַלֶּה מָמוֹן אָבִיו וּמְבַקֵּשׁ לִמּוּדוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מוֹצֵא, וְעוֹמֵד בְּפָרָשַׁת דְּרָכִים וּמְלַסְטֵם אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, אָמְרָה תוֹרָה יָמוּת זַכַּאי וְאַל יָמוּת חַיָּב

“The refractory and rebellious son is put to death on account of the final course his life must necessarily take (not because his present offence is deserving death); — the Torah has fathomed his ultimate disposition: in the end he will squander his father’s property and seeking in vain for the pleasures to which he has been accustomed, he will take his stand on the crossroads and rob people, and in some way or other make, himself liable to the death penalty. Says the Torah, “Let him die innocent of such crimes, and let him not die guilty of them (Rashi 21:18)

The obligation on how to conduct oneself now, to prevent long-term damage exists in various areas. In man’s private life, in society, country and even in the field of Halacha- Jewish law.

When it comes to leadership that is not sufficiently experienced and does not have a sufficient sense of responsibility, it tends to see the current situation without anticipating the results of the processes and their future damage.

The political leadership is sometimes tempted to prefer the considerations of current political gain at the expense of the damages that may arise from them in the future. Unlike the Halacha world.

Sages, out of responsibility and long-term vision, made far-reaching regulations when they feared future damage might be caused (such as canceling the Shofar commandment on Shabbat for fear of handling it, etc).

We should take this into consideration.

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