|The Profundities of Torah-Matot-Not Our Pets|
|Escrito por HaRav Yochanan Zweig|
“They approached him and said, ‘Pens for the flock shall we build here for our livestock and cities for our small children.’” (32:16) After conquering the lands of Sihon and Og on the eastern side of the Jordan River, the children of Gad and the children of Reuvein approached Moshe. They requested this land as their share of Eretz Yisroel to build pens for their animals and cities for their children.1 When Moshe reviewed their request he transposed the two needs stating “you shall build cities for your children and pens for your animals”2.
Rashi points out that Moshe was criticizing them for their flawed priorities, placing concern for their livestock before their children.3 How could the generation entering the land of Israel who were taught Torah by Moshe himself have had such distorted values, as to place the concern for their livestock ahead of their own children?
The Talmud records that parents are financially responsible for their children only until the age of six. After children reach that age parental support is deemed a charitable act.4 The commitment of Jewish parents to their children is legendary. Why does the legal responsibility of the Jewish parent not reflect the value system inculcated within each Jew?
A major pitfall in parenting is the perception that our children are extensions of ourselves, thus overlooking the child’s need for independence and self-expression. Another equally problematic situation occurs when a child lacks the necessary gratitude for his parents’ efforts to ensure his well-being, viewing their commitment and sacrifice as his right. The Talmud offers the solution to both problems. When a person is legally and fiscally responsible for an item, he feels a sense of ownership over it. Removing parents’ financial responsibility for their child enables them to view the child as a separate entity rather than chattel or appendages to them. The Jewish parent innately feels a moral obligation to support his child, ensuring that the child will not be left neglected. The message instilled in children is that their parents are not legally obligated to support them, but do so out of love. This leads children to display gratitude for their parents efforts and concern for their well-being.
The children of Gad and Reuvein had the appropriate sensitivities concerning their legal responsibilities. They owned their livestock and therefore were morally and legally bound to ensure their well-being. Their children, whom they correctly viewed as independent entities, were not their legal concern and therefore not mentioned first. This reflected a positive quality for it indicates that they did not feel compelled to support their children because they viewed them as appendages; rather, maintaining a healthy relationship with their offspring and recognizing their individual qualities, they supported them out of love. Moshe’s argument was that their legal responsibility to care for their animals stems from the responsibility to take care of themselves and those entities that are an extension of them. The reason to ensure that their children are cared for, although only a moral one and not legal, is far more compelling than even their responsibility to take care of themselves.
1.32:16 2.32:24 3.32:16 4.Kesubos
Question of the Week:
The Midrash states that the Rabbis derived from the war against Midyan the Talmudic principle “habah lehorgecha hashkeim vehorgo” - “if a person is attempting to take your life, it is permissible to take his”. This principle is already taught in Parshas Mishpotim concerning the permit to kill a burglar. Why is it necessary to teach it a second time?