Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Weinpr

The Torah always views life as a struggle, a conflict between the various natures that exist within each human being, a fight between rational good and instinctive evil. Rashi points out in his commentary to this week's Torah reading, that the Torah is addressing itself directly to the evil instinct that lies within all of us and warns us. Even if we do not behave in an illegal manner, unpleasant consequences will always flow from actions taken impulsively and out of desire.

Children, meaning generations and how they turn out, are somewhat dependent upon elements of good fortune.
Emotion is certainly necessary in life, but we know that purely emotional decisions often lead to sadness and even disaster. Thus, the taking of a non-Jewish woman captive as a wife, will have negative consequences, even if done legally and without any overt violation of the process that the Torah describes for us in the opening section of this week's reading.

Since it is a purely emotional, spur of the moment decision, there is a progression of events that will play out in later generations that will make it obvious that a poor choice was made originally. The next Torah sections describe the family structure, especially regarding monetary rights, rules of inheritance and finally wayward children who become unaccountable to their parents and as an existential threat to society generally.

Naturally, none of these consequences were foreseen at the original moment of passion that brought this non-Jewish woman into the family structure. She may be an innocent victim, in circumstances beyond her control, but the Jewish man who initiated the relationship is responsible for all the later consequences. The judgments of the Lord are infinite and hard to discern by human eyes. But there is no question that they exist.

Part of the reason for human behavior that is improper, which violates Jewish values and tradition, is the shortness of vision that our limited years impose upon us. Everyone aspires that their future generations should be people of worth, respect and value. Our greatest achievements always lie within our family. But there is no way that we can control the behavior of future generations or of our progeny. We can only serve as an example, and instruct and guide, and then hope that somehow all will come right.

The rabbis were aware of this fundamental problem in life, and commented that children, meaning generations and how they turn out, are somewhat dependent upon elements of good fortune. We see throughout the Bible that the greatest and holiest people produce children or grandchildren that are ignoble and wicked.

The commentators and scholars over the centuries have attempted to discern whether there was something in the behavior of the righteous parents or grandparents, some small failing that would allow and explain this sad phenomenon. It is beyond our reach to be able to judge these things, but from this week's Torah reading and of Rashi's commentary, it seems apparent that even though generations may depend in the main upon good fortune, there is some element of cause and effect that exists and governs these situations.

The Torah was not given to angels, and all humans are imperfect. But when it comes to family and family matters, we must be very circumspect, for our behaviors have the ability to produce consequences far beyond any immediate decisions that we make.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein