At the beginning of this week’s parsha, we learn about the fate of the “Ben Sorer Umoreh”, the wayward and defiant son. The Torah teaches that if a child fits the description of the Ben Sorer Umoreh, his parents bring him before a beis din to pronounce his sins, after which he is stoned to death. Our Sages teach that the wayward son is not being killed because of his past behavior. Rather, the Torah foresees that a child who shows such a strong propensity toward gluttony and thievery etc. will end up being a danger to society. It is for his own good and the good of society at large that he is put to death, so as to prevent any future harm.

Chazal teach that if the father of the boy wishes to forgive him for his behavior, he does not have to bring him to beis din. Even if the child’s behavior indeed earns him the title of “Ben Sorer Umoreh”, it is the father’s right to overlook the gravity of his crimes and forgive him entirely.

The Shem M’Shmuel asks the following question. Being that, as we have mentioned, the reason the Torah gives the Ben Sorer Umoreh the death penalty is in order to prevent the future thievery and even murder he will surely commit, why does the father have the right to forgive him? The Torah itself testifies that this child will end up being a menace to society! How does the father’s clemency negate the inevitability of this prediction?

The Shem M’Shmuel answers with the most amazing idea. He says that the ability of a Jew to perform teshuva and earn forgiveness from Hashem for past misdeeds is granted by our connection to our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Returning to Hashem means to return to ourselves, to return to our true roots – the spiritual DNA we contain within which binds us to those who devoted their lives to revealing Hashem’s presence in the physical world. This, says the Shem M’Shmuel, is why the Torah is certain that the Ben Sorer Umoreh’s future is so dismal. If this child’s father is willing to have him be put to death, this indicates that the boy’s connection with the Avos HaKedoshim has been completely severed and he therefore has no hope. However, if the boy’s father is willing to work with him – finding the glimmer of goodness he yet contains and believing in his potential for transformation and ultimate success – he reconnects the boy with his true source and enables him to take control of his future and turn himself around.

This is such a powerful idea! A parent mustn’t wait for a glimmer of light to appear before believing in the child’s ability to succeed. It works the other way around! If a parent truly believes in the child, regardless of how bad the situation may appear, this belief will grant the child the strength to turn him or herself around and exceed all and any expectations.

Armed with our faith in their unique potential for greatness, there is nothing our children cannot achieve.

Rav Shmuel Bornstein of Sochatchov
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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