A Jewish father and son
A Jewish father and sonצילום: Shutterstock
We read in our Parasha: (14:1)’You are Children to Hashem, your G-d - you shall not cut yourselves and you shall not make a bald spot between your eyes for a dead person.

Rashi comments:’Do not make cuts in your flesh to mourn for the dead, in the manner that the Amonites do, because you are the children of the omnipotent, and it is appropriate for you to be נאה:handsome and not to be cut or have your hair torn out.’

The Be’er Ha’Sadeh, comments on the concluding words of Rashi:’True, it Is written (Mishlei 30:31)’Charm is false, and beauty is futile’, and beauty is only for women; however, it appears to me, that when it says here:’You are children of Hashem’, and therefore ‘it is appropriate for you to be handsome’, it refers to the likeness of Hashem on our faces - that is our beauty, and if you cut your faces, or tear out your hair, in the manner of the nations, the image of Hashem departs from your face.’

Rav Moshe Sternbuch expounds on this, saying:’Because we are children of Hashem, He has impressed On us His image, the צלם אלקים, but this is defaced if we cut our faces; and this is not appropriate to the children of G-d who should be unmarked - and this is also the result of the person’s transgressions, which ‘deface’ his image.

‘It is fitting for each of us to reflect on this, that he is a son of Hashem and created in His image, and that his transgressions will be reflected on his face - as this will surely cause him to desist from transgressing.

‘If he reflects that transgressions are reflected in adverse changes to the look of his face, how much more should he be fearful that they soil his pure soul - what benefit will all the earthly pleasures bring man, if they are at the expense of his eternal soul?’.

Rav Ahron Kotler has blessed us with a wonderful exposition on our subject:’The Torah has imposed a special ‘harshness’ on the prohibition against defacing ourselves, over a death, by considering each scratch and each removal of a hair, as liable to a separate punishment. Why does it do so? Because ‘you are the children of Hashem your G-d’, and it is appropriate that you be נאה: and not defaced - meaning, that apart from this reflecting on the honor of your heavenly father, it is also because of your own special importance.

‘It is not just a figure of speech, that we are called ‘children of Hashem’, but a true reflection of our relationship, which each and every one of us, has.

‘This should govern all of our conduct, as, if it obliges us not to be defaced physically, how much more does it obligate us to be free of spiritual defects, and conduct which is unworthy in itself.

‘This obligates us to contemplate - and internalize - our wondrous status and the obligation it imposes on us; the more we recognize this, so too will our status be elevated.

‘It will, in turn, be the major aid to rectifying unworthy behavour, as this recognition of our importance in Hashem’s eyes, will lead us to reflect on each and every action, to ensure that it is appropriate and proper, and to abstain from any conduct which does not accord with our standing - because we are ‘children of Hashem’, and have to act accordingly.

‘We learn from this, that the greater one’s recognition of his importance - that he is the son of Hashem - the greater will be the care he takes to live up to the honor it entails - and, as a result, all his actions will be worthy and proper.

‘The gemara (Brachot 28:) relates that, on his death-bed, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, adjured his disciples,: ‘your fear of heaven should be on you, just as is your fear of flesh and blood’.

‘This enigmatic request’ explains Rav Kotler, ‘was, that when a man wishes to commit an action of a doubtful nature, his first concern is that no-one should see his action.

‘He does not consider himself as ‘one who needs to be taken into account’, and thereby should not transgress!

‘If! however, he will see that he, himself, is a son of Hashem, he will surely desist from the improper action - for, in truth, the main reason why he would even consider the improper action, is that he is ‘not a person’ in his own eyes, and therefore, if no one else is present, he feels that ‘no-one is there!

‘Thus, the greatest cause of proper conduct, is the recognitiin of one’s importance - that we are truly ‘children of Hashem’’.

The Netivot Shalom concludes:’The matter of you being ‘children of Hashem’, is the foundation of foundations and the principle of principles, to believe that we are His sons in all circumstances; further, ‘you are children’ is written in the plural, and the holy tomes teach that only when individuals are united and connected, are they called ‘the children of Hashem’ - whereas the individual is not called ‘a son’.

‘Similarly, Hashem does not relate to an individual as ‘a father’, only to the many who are united and bound together - in the words of the supplication:’ Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, with the shining countenance of Your face’ : the title of ‘father’ is only when we are all ‘as one’’.

Indeed, our Sages (Yebamot 13: 2), have derived a related, second teaching from the prohibition, in our passuk, based on the words לא תתגודדו: that, as well as meaning ‘not cut yourselves’, it also means לא תעשו אגודות: do not form separate units - from the word גדוד - as this is clearly לא נאה: not ‘nice’, in Rashi’s words, for the children of One heavenly father.

Rav David Sperber adds: ‘Not separating into divisions’, is a pre-condition to being ‘children of Hashem, as we find that the title ‘children’ is only said about the many; and if they are divided, they do not merit that title.’

The S’fat Emet similarly states:’To attain the status of being called ‘children of Hashem’, is only when the people are not divided, this being the plain meaning of לא תתגודדו; and the two are dependent one on the other, as only by there being no divisions, do the people merit to be called ‘children’’.

A parting insight from the Ktav Sofer:’We find that, even when they transgress, Bnei Israel are still called ‘sons’, by Hashem; however, if they are divided, Hashem is quick to extract punishment.

‘Like any loving father, Hashem is less concerned at offences against Him - and ‘foregoes’ His honor - then for offences by his children against one another - the honor of his children is of greater concern to Him, and he is quick to impose punishment, whilst at the same time ‘forebearing’ offences against His honor.’

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.