Ki Tetze
For the week of September 9, 2000 / 9 Elul 5760
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10

Dare To Discipline

They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 21:20).

The Torah is much harsher in dealing with bad behavior than many of our modern societies. One example of that is found in Devarim (English: Deuteronomy) chapter 21, verses 18-21. The people of Israel were instructed to deal decisively with their rebellious children. In fact in extreme cases they were told to present their children to the leaders of the community for execution.

While I do not think that we are to take this extreme measure in our day, this passage reveals certain things about parental responsibility that I think we would do well to take seriously.

First notice that it was assumed that children were to obey their parents. How many of us are embarrassed by such a concept. Of course when our children are very small, we tell them what to do. But as they grow up we usually spend more time wishing our children would do as we say, than they do obeying us.

Since many societies have a very low view of any kind of authority, we tend to think that the concept of obedience is oppressive and restrictive. We have forgotten that as adults we are the ones who are supposed to know what is best for our children and that our instructions are to benefit them. We all know that it is harmful to allow our children to do whatever they like. Yet for some reason we are scared to take responsibility for their lives.

We need to realize how critical it is for us to raise our children correctly, so that they do not give themselves to wild living. The Torah calls this kind of lifestyle evil and should not be tolerated.

Second, if our children do not obey us, we are to discipline them. While the method of discipline used may differ from child to child and situation to situation, we need to call our children to account for their actions so that they will learn to conduct themselves properly.

Third, it is the parents' responsibility to initiate the consequences for their children's rebellion. We are not to wait for the authorities to take charge of our children, God has appointed us as parents to do it.

Finally, after the parents have done their part, the community takes it from there. The final consequence is initiated by the parents, but they do not actually bring it about. When things get to this point, the leaders of the community become responsible for the child. If parents and the community at large would each understand their roles and how they relate to each other, our children would stand a much better chance in life.

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