Rav Miller on the Rebellious Son

If a man have a son, stubborn and rebellious,...

HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l

Judaism ישיבת בין הזמנים לילדים
ישיבת בין הזמנים לילדים
INN:Toras Avigdor

The Parsha of the Wayward and Rebellious Son is unique, as the Talmud tells us such a boy never existed, and the entire Parsha is intended only for its moral instruction.

Perhaps for this very reason, Rabbi Avigdor Miller taught that the moral lesson of the Wayward and Rebellious Son is poignant and timeless. The Torah tells us in no uncertain terms that the recipe for good discipline is firm discipline.

Indeed, this is an act of compassion and a display of the parents'  love for their child. (Of course, Rabbi Miller speaks only of physical discipline administered with love, not with cruelty.)

The Oral Law contains so many conditions that are required in order to punish the Rebellious Son, that some Sages therefore conclude that such an instance never actually occurred. According to such an opinion, why did Hashem's Torah speak of this matter?

The answer is found in the concluding words of this subject: "And all Israel shall hear and they should fear" (21:20).

Just as the actual killing of such a son would indeed motivate all boys toward good behavior and obedience to parents, so also has the lesson of this subject been studied by millions of boys of our nation when they were taught the Torah-text in their very early youth and they were deeply impressed.

Thus all Israel, from the earliest times down to today, continue to be impressed with the potential power of parents to bring rebellious sons to judgment.

Until recently, no Jewish boy had not studied Chumash; and the fear of the consequences of misbehavior became subconsciously part of the mindset of the entire nation: "and all Israel shall hear and they should fear." Although girls may be rebellious, but boys of this type are ten times as numerous.

The Torah imparts to us here a potent and striking lesson: The most effective remedy is copious and severe flogging.

The theorists of the non-Torah world consider the failure in self-control a form of mental illness, and thereby all irresponsible boys should be spared any punishment. But among the suggestions that they propose, is also the necessity to make the boy aware of the effects of his behavior.

This is precisely the Torah-system: "And they shall chastise him" (21:18).

"He that withholds the rod, does hate his son" (Mishle 13:24). Instead of the futile attempts at analysis and therapy and similar psychological treatments, every boy becomes influenced by the knowledge that severe punishment awaits him. In the days of old, when this method was followed, countless boys were rescued from the attitudes of irresponsibility and impulsive selfishness, and they lived out their lives in useful and rewarding orderliness.

The modern theorists have ruined millions by their ineffective ministrations.

Certainly, very many good boys have developed under the influence of righteous parents and teachers and by Torah instruction; but many wild-natured youths have been saved by the additional method of chastisement. (And even many girls have been saved from destruction by a good parental punishment, even a slap.)