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Sunday, 22 November 2015

A parent always forgives

Daf Yomi Sotah 25

King David loved his son Avshalom.  But he was a wicked, rebellious son.  It all began when his half-brother, Amnon, violated his sister, Tamar.  Avshalom was tormented by the attack on his dear sister, and finally decided that her desecration could not go unpunished.  In the midst of feasting and merrymaking, he had Amnon slain.  When King David heard about the death of his son at the hands of another son, he was devastated.  He banished Avshalom, refusing him entry into the city of Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, with the intercession of David’s close advisor, Yoav, Avshalom was finally permitted to re-enter the city, but without access to the king’s presence.  Finally, three years later, David had pity on his son and decided to forgive him completely.  Overwhelmed with the love a father has for his son no matter what crimes he has perpetrated, he agreed to meet with him.  Sadly, the feelings were not mutual and thus began Avshalom’s famous revolt. . .

Rabbi Yoshiya taught: Zaeera, a resident of Jerusalem, told me three things: A husband who regrets his accusations against his wife may take them back.  A rebellious sage may be forgiven by the beth din.  And a ben sorer umoreh (rebellious child) whose parents wish to pardon is pardoned.
Rashi explains: The parents warned their child not to misbehave and he disobeyed and was punished by the court.  He then repeat the offense.  At that point, the parents may either bring him to the court to be executed or pardon him.  The Torah’s words, “and they shall grab him” grants them the ultimate authority.

The Torah’s account of the ben sorer umoreh is powerful and scary.  Here is a child who was gluttonous and guzzled wine and was clearly headed down the wrong path.  The Torah declares that it is better to execute him now rather than watch him grow up to become a wicked adult.  Even though his current misdemeanours are minor, we see where it’s going and put a stop to it before it gets out of hand. 

But is that fair?  He really hasn’t done anything yet that would warrant capital punishment!  How many innocent children were executed on the basis of what might have occurred down the road?  The answer, our Sages tell us, is zero.   It never happened.  Not once in the entire history of the Sanhedrin.  

Why not?  Presumably there were many kids who discovered their parents’ liquor stash and started down the wrong path!  Why was there not a single execution ever reported? 

The answer is in our Gemara.  No matter how bad your kid is, are you seriously going to choose to have them executed?  Which parent does that?  The fact that the parents gets to determine the fate of their rebellious child means that the entire focus of this Torah law has nothing to do with the kid.  It’s about the parent’s responsibility.  The Torah is essentially saying: if your kid is acting like this, you’d better wake up and start doing a bit of better parenting; otherwise he’s going to end up in a pretty bad place as an adult.

So, of course every single parent who ever had a rebellious child pardoned their kid.  Even King David, whose son was not just a murderer, but a perpetrator of fratricide, forgave his son!  And if every human parent found it in their heart to forgive, how much more so, does our Father in Heaven always forgive and pardon us for our misdeeds. 

You might think you’ve strayed way too far from your relationship with Him and there’s no point trying to reconnect anymore.  Says the Talmud: Your Father not only has the power to forgive, but every single parent throughout history has always forgiven!  And so, certainly our Father will most definitely forgive whatever it is you have done.

Your Father in Heaven loves you more than you could ever imagine.  He will always forgive, no matter how far you’ve strayed from His presence.  The execution of the rebellious child never happened and wil never happen.  May you have the courage to fall into your Father’s arms and accept His all-forgiving embrace!