Both the ben sorer u'moreh mentioned in this week's parsha (21:18-21) and the zakein mamrei mentioned in last week's parsha (17:8-13) were given public executions with announcements of their crime made so people would take note and learn from their example. Yet, there is a slight difference in the expression the Torah uses in each case. With respect to ben sorer u'moreh the Torah writes, "v'chol yisrael yishme'u v'yira'u"; with respect to zakein mamrei the Torah writes, "v'chol ha'am yishme'u v'yira'u." Why the difference?
Netziv explains that the term "am" usually refers to the hoi polloi, the common man, while the term "yisrael" is usually reserved to mean the righteous select few. Everyone appreciates the significance of ritual. If the zakein mamrei taught that chameitz can be eaten until 11:00 in the morning and the calendar of Beis Din said you can eat only until 10:00, every Joe and Jane in klal yisrael can understand why this zakein mamrei's view is out of bounds -- the "am" gets the lesson.
The ben zorer u'moreh is not guilty of violating a ritual law; he is guilty of living a life steeped in dangerous indulgence. Many of the "am" will not even see the crime in the ben sorer u'moreh's behavior -- so he stole some food, so he is a disobedient teenager, so his life revolves around food, drink, partying -- what does that have to do with Judaism? It is only the "yisrael" who takes note of the lesson and appreciate that ritual alone does not define Judaism, but attitude and lifestyle are equally significant.