Mishpatim

Torah Fax
Friday, January 31, 2003 - 28 Shevat, 5763

Torah Reading: Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 - 24:17)
Candle Lighting Time: 4:53 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:56 PM
We bless the New Month of Adar I

Adultnapping

When the Torah discusses the law against kidnapping in this week's parsha, it interposes it between the prohibition of striking or cursing a parent. Commentators have asked, what is the connection between kidnapping and attacking a parent?

Rabbi Sa'adia Gaon (tenth century) answers that by inserting the law concerning kidnapping the Torah anticipated an obvious question that would arise when learning about the child who strikes or curses a parent. Namely: How is it possible that a child should strike his parent? To answer this question the Torah introduces the law of kidnapping. It is plausible that a child who was kidnapped would grow up without a close relationship to his parents. And even if the child would later discover who his parents were, the bond that naturally exists between a parent and a child would obviously not be there. It would therefore be possible for this estranged child to strike or curse his parent.

R. Sa'adia's comment has been challenged by later commentators. The Torah specifically states that the person who was kidnapped is an "ish," meaning a full-fledged adult. How then could R. Sa'adia interpret this as a reference to a child? We can answer this question with another question (in typical Jewish fashion). Why did the Torah have to provide for a more plausible scenario for the phenomenon of a child hurting a parent? The Torah frequently deals with unusual circumstances, as well as the more common ones. Why did the Torah, according to R. Sa'adia Gaon's explanation, have to find a rational basis for this crime?

This question would have been a valid one if the Torah's objective was merely to provide us with a list of crimes and their punishments. In truth, the Torah is interested in more than just presenting us with a penal code. Rather, the Torah is primarily interested in getting us to understand the root of the problem, which then provides us with a means to find a remedy for it. Here too, the Torah wants us to get to the root of the issue of a child turning against his parent. Whether it is a child or an adult who is rebellious, it is frequently a product of alienation. When a parent abdicates his or her role and treats the child as if he were not their own (meaning, to a certain extent, he "kidnapped" his child) the child will naturally reciprocate in kind and feel distant and detached from his parents.

The message for parents is clear: there are many levels and gradations of a "kidnapped" child. Any child that feels alienated from his parents, is - on a very fine level - "kidnapped." It is the obligation of parents to fortify their connection to their children. This is especially true in these pre-Messianic times, a time that the Talmud characterizes as an age when youth will rebel against their elders and indeed their own parents. As parents, we have the ability to change that prophecy which we have seen materialize all too often.

On a more spiritual plane, the reference to a father or mother is a reference to G‑d. Since G‑d is both our Father and Mother, who provides us with our very existence, it is therefore unfathomable that we should be able to rebel against Him. Yet, the Torah seems to discuss this very possibility. How?

The Torah informs us that this spirit of rebelliousness derives from the fact that we were "kidnapped." In Talmudic literature we find the concept of a "Tinok shenishbah-a child who was captured" and raised by gentiles and therefore cannot be held accountable for his lack of observance of the commandments.

In a certain sense, however, this phenomenon of a "kidnapped child" can be applied to each and every one of us. This is especially true during our stay in exile. When we ask ourselves, how is it that we could be rebellious, the answer is: We were kidnapped and sold - we were disoriented and made to feel disconnected from our spiritual roots.

"Kidnapping" symbolizes the forces of assimilation that compel us-against our better judgment-to do things that are incompatible with our Jewish heritage. After a while, we are  "sold" on this change. We look for and accept the payment or rewards that accrue from our new environment and its value system and we then identify with it. And while at first, we feel some measure of "home-sickness," we eventually degenerate into a state that we no longer yearn for a particular Jewish practice or experience. It is at that time that we are capable of rejecting our Heavenly Father.

This is why the Torah uses the word "ish" connoting an adult when addressing the issue of kidnapping: the idea of alienation is not restricted to a child.

Knowing that one has been "kidnapped" and "sold" is the first step in bringing about the rapprochement between ourselves and our Heavenly Father. This explains why our prayers are replete with references to the fact that we are in exile and that we request of G‑d to take us out of it. By making these requests, thereby demonstrating our distaste for our state of alienation, we have already commenced the process of liberation and reuniting with G‑d.

Moshiach Matters

With the coming of Moshiach, Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish authorities of all time, writes there will be no more jealousy, no more hate, no more conflict between peoples, no more wars among nations, no more friction between the different races and ethnic groups. People will find peace and harmony not only with others but also within themselves. No more inner turmoil. From www.moshiach.com.

Moshiach - Its a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com

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