זה טעם וכל ישראל ישמעו ויראו -
כי לא הומת בגודל חטאו, אלא לייסר בו את הרבים ושלא יהיה תקלה לאחרים:
וכן דרך הכתוב שיזהיר כן כאשר ימיתו לגדר כדי שתהיה במיתתם תקנה לאחרים, כי הזכיר כן בזקן ממרא (לעיל יז יג): לפי שאין בהוראתו חטא שיהיה ראוי למות בו, רק הוא להסיר המחלוקת מן התורה כאשר פירשתי שם (בפסוק יא), וכן בעדים זוממין (לעיל יט כ), שנהרגין ולא הרגו, וכן הזכיר במסית (לעיל יג יב), לפי שהוא נהרג בדבורו הרע בלבד אע"פ שלא עבד הניסת ע"ז ולא שמע אליו, אבל מיתתו לייסר הנשארים.
R’ Y.L. Chasman notes that we see an interesting chiddush: the din prati of the individual is influenced by the social context, by the klal. Had the ben sorer lived on a desert island, his actions would not have warranted his being punished so harshly. But a Jew is not alone on a desert island, certainly not in a spiritual sense.
Chazal already read the smichus haparshiyos of yefat to’ar and the parsha of ben sorer as a warning that while one is allowed to take a yefat to’ar, eventually lust will turn to loathing and the offspring from such a union will become a ben sorer. This poor guy thought he found a great wife, and then lo and behold, he ends up hating her. He thinks to himself that all is not lost, at least maybe he will have some nachas from his children, and then that child turns into a bes sorer u’moreh and has to be killed. What a horrible life! Yet, says the Ishbitzer, that is not the end of the story. The parsha continues with the issur of allowing a body to remain hanging, without proper burial and then with the parsha of hashavas aveidah, returning lost objects. There is a smichas haparshiyos here as well. That ben sorer that was just killed is not a worthless bum. “Ki klilas Elokim taluy,” there is a neshoma nitzchis even in that ben sorer (see Seforno). Ultimately, lo yidach, that neshoma will have a hashavas aveidah done with it and Hashem will rehabilitate it.
I would put this Ishbitzer together with R’ Leib Chasman’s observation. The midas hadin sometimes is a result of circumstance – society cannot tolerate a ben sorer u’moreh. That judgment, however, does not reflect on the intrinsic worth of the neshoma of the ben sorer, which ultimately is open to being redeemed.
2) The Ohr haChaim haKadosh learns the parsha of hasahvas aveidah as directing us to look out for those souls who have become lost. We’ve discussed on other occasions the idea that every individual corresponds to a letter in the Torah. When Kayin is punished, he complains to G-d that, “geirashta osi m’al pnei ha’adamah.” The Radomsker explains that Kayin was concerned that “osi,” his os, his letter, was being driven away. “Vayasem l’Kayis os,” Hashem reassures him and gives him his letter back. The Radomsker reads the words in our parsha, “Vhayisa imach ad derosh achicha oso,” as saying that sometimes you have to hang on and wait until your brother comes looking for his os, and then, “v’hasheivoso lo,” you can return it to him.
3) A few weeks ago I did a post (link) on why Hashem didn’t just ignore Bilam and let him say whatever he wanted. If G-d didn’t want Bnei Yisrael to come to harm, then surely all the words of all the magicians in the world wouldn’t make a difference! The Chasam Sofer offers an answer based on the words in our parsha (23:6), “V’lo avah Hashem Elokecha lishmo’a el Bilam…” When you love someone, you don’t want to hear that person put down, even if you know the words are false. Of course whatever Bilam said would have been for naught, but Hashem didn’t want to hear it.
4) There is a Midrash on the parsha of kan tzipor that raises the question of whether hatafas dam bris is required for a baby born with a milah. What does this have to do with kan tzipor? Ramban discusses the reason for the mitzvah of kan tzipor and writes that while al pi peshuto mitzvos are didactic in nature – they are about training us to behave in certain ways:
שאין התועלת במצות להקב"ה בעצמו יתעלה, אבל התועלת באדם עצמו למנוע ממנו נזק או אמונה רעה או מידה מגונה, או לזכור הנסים ונפלאות הבורא יתברך ולדעת את השם
Al pi sod there is something accomplished upstairs by on our actions. Chasam Sofer says that if removing the orlah through milah was only about curbing ta’avar, what difference should it make if the orlah is cut off or one is born without an orlah? The requirement of hatafas dam proves that there exists this element of sod below the surface, underscoring the Ramban’s point (see Ksav Sofer who offers a different answer).
The Sefas Emes does see shiluach hakan as reflecting G-d’s rachamanus (he deals with the sugya in Brachos that seems critical of ascribing this as the ta’am hamitzvah in a few places, but I’ll leave that for another time). The point of the Midrash is that G-d’s mercy does not come into the world on its own. Just as G-d could just as easily have made a person born mahul, but he didn’t – there is a mitzvah to remove the orlah, and even when it’s already gone, a mitzvah to do a hatafas dam, so too, G-d puts a nest in the path of a person and allows him to do the mitzvah of shiluach hakan so that the of midah of rachmanus should be elicited by man’s actions, not just come about on its own. We have to play a part in perfecting the world.
4) There is so much more to say on this parsha, but my fingers are tired. Let me end off (as usual the past few weeks) with something about Eretz Yisrael. The Midrash Tanchuma asks: it says in our parsha, “Zachor es… Amalek,” meaning the job is in our hands; it says in Beshalacha that “Ki machoh emcheh,” that Hashem will destroy Amalek. How do you reconcile the two? The Midrash answers that until the enemy attacked G-d’s throne, it was up to us. Now that the enemy attacked the “kisei Hashem,” then Hashem himself steps into the fight. What is the “kisei Hashem?” The Midrash answers: Yerushalayim.
We are not in this fight alone, and that's why I'm sure, even if it takes time, we are going to win.