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Parashat Ki Tesseh – Tough Love and Parenting


The Torah describes in great detail the case of the rebellious son. A young teenager starting out in life indulges in defiant antisocial criminal behavior while exhibiting extreme vulgarity and reckless disregard for everyone, especially towards his parents.

He must be brought by both parents to the authorities to stand trial for his outrageous behavior and if found guilty, he is given the ultimate punishment, the death sentence.

Our sages are puzzled by a punishment that at face value doesn’t fit the crime. So why is the prescribed punishment so severe? Since he is exhibiting such outrageous behavior at such a tender age, when he first becomes responsible as an adult for his decisions and actions, will ultimately result in his murdering people in order to feed his addictions and remove anyone who might stand in his way.

Our sages in the Talmud say that this particular law was never implemented nor, surprisingly, will it ever be implemented throughout the history of humanity. If so, then what is the point of it’s being written in the Torah? It’s there to teach that an uncontrolled addictive compulsion is so overwhelmingly powerful that the addict will not consider stopping their conduct until the consequences of their destructive behavior becomes so unpleasant that it is no longer worth the price.

Sometimes, unfortunately, the “tough love” approach to parenting has to be adopted and implemented in the treatment of addictions, where radical, painful steps may be required to save their lives and to show them, true love!

~Rabbi Shaul