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Shabbat Parashat Kedoshim| 5771

Parashat Hashavuah: Revered Role Models

Harav Shaul Yisraeli based on Siach Shaul, pp. 334-335

The living spirit and main goal of the mitzvot of the Torah is “be holy” (Vayikra 19:2), the words after which our parasha is named. As the Ramban explains, the mitzvot are not just technical requirements but are intended to mold a proper Torah personality. Getting into specifics, the Torah starts with the mitzva to fear one’s parents. Honoring them is not enough, as some sort of awe/fear is in order, and this is apparently a path leading toward the desired sanctity.

The Torah says that the child who is to fear is “ish” (a man). A child grows into a young man, who has a status of standing on his own, with his own logic, desires, and judgment. Like one who starts off some project, the adolescent has a desire to dismiss the past and be his own beginning. This is specifically the time when there is a need to remember the mandate to revere his parents. When the natural reverence of childhood wanes, there is a need for a command to continue to exhort him to do so.

The halachot of ben sorer u’moreh (the rebellious son) also begin when the child turns into a man. His parents complain that he does not listen to them and that he is eating and drinking like a glutton. Just as the Ramban says that the gluttony is antithetical to being holy, so is not listening to one’s parents.

A soft sapling is weak, and when one becomes a bar mitzva and his yetzer hatov (good inclination) arrives, his yetzer hara (evil inclination) is already well entrenched (see Kohelet Rabba 4:1 and Rashi to Bereishit 8:21). As he grows through adolescence, the yetzer hara just broadens its horizons. What starts with gluttony continues with following his eyes and his heart to promiscuity and corrupt philosophies. This is when he needs the ideal guides, his parents. The mother’s heart, which is focused on concern for the family, together with the eyes of the father, which saw much and know to distinguish between things of value and exciting packaging with no content, are the proper counterbalance to the yetzer hara.

Reverence for one’s parents has a major impact on the child’s developing intellect. One learns from them to accept that which is positive and to weed out that which is negative. While the young generation is drawn to a new style of bravery in an outward manner, it is important to attach to it the power of the internal spirit of strength. One can embark on a new approach but do so in a way where in its core essence, it is a new form of the same old values.

Parents must also learn lessons. As the child grows up, the parents’ roles change and become more complicated. It is possible to impose one’s will on a small child. However, as he grows up, it becomes more important to be a living role model and less of a strict disciplinarian. It becomes forbidden to hit the young adult child, who is, Heaven forbid, capable of hitting back (Moed Katan 17a). It will not be possible to keep up the awe if the parent undermines his own status in the child’s eyes.

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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim

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 to the memory of
R' Meir
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