By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Kesubos 45 – Accepting Limitations Generates the Greatest Strength
The witnesses came after she was fully married. Nisuin already took place. However, their testimony pertains to what happened when she was an arusah, still living in her parents’ home. It was then that she was mezaneh. In this situation, says the Braisah, her penalty is meted out by pesach beis aviha. Why at her father’s house? Kelomar, it is as if to say, “See that which you made grow!”
Rashi provides the following commentary on that line of the Gemara: “Kelomar, as if to say, from this house did the disgraceful matter emanate, for it is therein that she committed her act of adultery.”
The Taz, in his pirush al ha’Torah (generally called Divrei Dovid), is perplexed by Rashi’s explanation. “What was bothering Rashi about the Gemara that he felt a need to give such a ‘kelomar’ type of explanation? Furthermore, what does it make a difference where the act of adultery took place?”
This is the answer that the Taz proffers: “The Gemara is coming to teach us that when the pasuk says ‘Beis Aviha’ it is not referring to the household, which would mean the group of family members; rather, since the pasuk employs the term ‘Pesach Beis Aviha’, the doorway of her father’s house, it must be literally referring to the father’s house. The Gemara is elaborating that there is a mussar inherent in this. That the father and mother are responsible for what happened since it took place in their very own home. They were not careful enough to keep a watchful eye over their daughter.”
The clear implication of Rashi’s explanation and the Taz’s supercommentary is that were the forbidden act to have occurred outside the parents’ home, they would not be held responsible therefor.
This sentiment is echoed by the Beis Ha’Levi on parshas Vayigash. He asks there why it is that Yehuda spoke at length about how Yaakov initially didn’t want to let Binyamin leave him? It seems completely superfluous. Furthermore, Yehuda’s impassioned, heart-wrenching description of how much pain Yaakov will suffer if Binyamin does not return seems odd. Where do we find such “claims” when involved in proceedings of law?
The explanation, answers the Beis Ha’Levi, has to do with the general conundrum of collateral damage to the family of a criminal. For example, when a thief gets punished, his father and whole family also suffer. Why should they suffer? What did they do? The answer is that they did not did not keep enough of a watchful eye on him as he was growing up, and now as well they did not exert enough influence on him to make sure that he would not steal.
This is similar, continues the Beis Ha’Levi, to that which we find that a naarah meurasah is punished by the home of her father, which is to indicate the parents’ guilt in the matter. However, this is all true regarding a child who was treated in a hefker manner by his parents; they allowed him to roam free and experiment, unchecked, with the whims of his desires.
Yaakov, though, did not and would not allow Binyamin to leave his city. Yaakov was very careful to keep a watchful eye on him – Yehuda was explaining to the viceroy of Egypt – and in that milieu he certainly never would have stolen anything. Even if your accusation that he stole is correct, asserted Yehuda, it is your fault because you are the one who forced him to leave his father’s side. Therefore, it would be entirely unjust of you to subject his father – who is totally guiltless even according to your allegation – to such terrible suffering. That, explains the Beis Ha’Levi, is what Yehuda was putting forth as his case for clemency.
So again we see that there is a limit to how much parents can be held accountable for their children’s actions. Essentially, what it boils down to is that if parents do everything that is in their power to be mechaneich the child – to prevent him from doing wrong, and set him on the straight and upright path – then they cannot be blamed if things nevertheless turn out sour.
A friend of mine once attended a chinuch shiur given by Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz. He told me that Rav Berkowitz concluded the shiur by saying, “After all is said and done, we really need to daven to Hashem that our children turn out well. After all, Avraham avinu had a Yishmael, and Yitzchak avinu had an Eisav. What that shows us is that beyond all our efforts to raise our children properly, we need siyata d’Shmaya. And for that we need to daven.”
Recognizing our limitations as parents is important for another reason as well.
Rav Yisrael Belsky emphasizes that a father has the greatest, positive influence on his family when he is like the Rock of Gibraltar. Stable and unshakeable. No matter what a child may do, it does not affect the father’s internal state of equanimity. He does not get all worked up or emotional. He doesn’t get down and depressed because his kid seems to not be turning out well. No matter what, he retains and maintains his simchas ha’chaim and yishuv ha’daas. If he needs to tell the child a disapproving word about his behavior, he does so; but without getting worked up, without losing his cool.
This approach, explains Rav Belsky, creates an atmosphere in which the parental unit radiates a sense of absolute stability and inherent power that has a tremendous, positive influence on the children.
Of course, the best way that you can avoid getting worked up and destabilized over your child’s failures is if you accept the fact that they are not your personal failures. If you tried your best and did everything that was humanly possible for you to do, the rest is up to Hashem.
Almost ironically, accepting the real limitations of our control over our children’s fate and conduct is that which affords us the greatest influence and control over them. Because when we accept the fact that once we have done everything that we can do it is no longer in our hands, although it certainly upsets and saddens us when a child does bad things, it does not affect our essential, internal equilibrium.
You don’t lose your cool or get worked up. You accept the fact that your child’s poor behavior is not reflective on you. You did everything that you could have done. He (or she) is a separate, independent individual with his own set of strengths and weaknesses, life circumstances and challenges, successes and failures. When you recognize and internalize that fact – thereby permanently preserving your own internal state of stability and essential happiness – the child picks up on that resonating reservoir of strength, and he is affected by it. It makes him feel that sense of strength inside of himself as well, and he is drawn to following your guidance because of that true strength that he senses in you and derives from you.
And the truth is that even a parent who did make serious, neglectful mistakes can and should exude this type strength. Ultimately, a person should relate to mistakes he made vis a vis the chinuch of his children the way he relates to mistakes that he made in his own, individual life.
Sheva yipol tzadik v’kam.
The way of the world is that we fall seven times before getting up. The mefarshim explain that it is not just that the tzaddik is so determined that even if he falls seven times he will still pick himself up each time. Rather, the pshat of the pasuk is k’pshuto mamash. Namely, that the way this world works is that we mess up a lot before we actually manage to succeed.
What it boils down to, then, is that it is about being forward focused. Do you regret past mistakes and do teshuva? Of course. But are you going to let your present and future be defined and shackled by those past mistakes? No way! You recognize that even when something is your fault, well, that just means that you are a human being. It is normal to make mistakes. Even big ones. It is the way the world works.
The most important thing is what you are going to do now.
Do you wish that you could have done things better right from the get-go? Sure you do. But, at the end of the day, you are not going to let the spilled milk spoil and go sour in your heart. Instead, you will do the best you can to clean it up, and go fill up the jug with fresh, new milk. You are goal oriented and forward focused. Now you are trying to do things right; and, with that, you recognize your limitations. Therefore, you do not allow those limitations to get to you. On the contrary, you embrace those limitations, and rely on and request of the one who is the Father of us all to carry the day.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. In addition to having authored Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim on Halacha and Hashkafa, writes comprehensive chazara questions (in Hebrew) for the advanced Daf Yomi learner, and weekly words of inspiration from the Parsha. Rabbi Berman can be contacted at email@example.com.