What the Law of the “Wayward and Rebellious Son” Teaches about Parenting

Aug. 26 2015

According to the book of Deuteronomy (21:18-21), the “wayward and rebellious son” is to be punished with death for his gluttony, drunkenness, and filial disobedience. The Talmud, in analyzing the passage, raises the bar for conviction so high that, the rabbis assert, no one has ever been executed for this crime and ever will be. Nonetheless, writes Jeffrey Saks, there is something to be learned from the Talmud’s discussion of this case:

[The talmudic sage] Rabbi Yehudah determines that the parents must be of “equal voice,” so that if one of them called on the phone, for example, the [son] wouldn’t be able to tell from the voice alone if it belonged to mom or dad. Since they must be of equal voice, he adds the requirement that the two parents must be equal in height and in appearance. Without these highly unlikely conditions being met, even the most rebellious child in the world would not meet the conditions [for receiving] the death penalty.

What is the meaning of Rabbi Yehudah’s odd requirements? . . . When two parents sound absolutely identical, their message becomes muted—like two sounds of equal wavelength which cancel each other out (as the physicists tell us). Parents must act in tandem, and surely their worldviews and values are best communicated when there is harmony—but rigid ideological uniformity, to the extent that the child cannot differentiate between mother and father, [places the child on] the path to rebellion. . . .

[W]e need a certain degree of parental variety—within a framework of [general] consensus—to avoid the dangers and defects of the wayward and rebellious son. Rabbi Yehudah’s principles point to parental harmony as a middle path between discord and the sounds of silence produced by two parents attempting to educate with only one voice.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Web Yeshiva

More about: Children, Deuteronomy, Family, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, Weekly parashah

 

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas