SALT - Wednesday, 11 Elul 5778 - August 22, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            Towards the beginning of Parashat Ki-Teitzei (21:15), the Torah addresses the case of a man with two sons from two different wives, and the older son is born by the wife whom he likes less.  While the man might wish to grant birthright privileges to the younger son, whose mother he loves more, the Torah forbids him from doing so, commanding that the older son be granted the double portion to which firstborns are entitled.
            Rav Eliezer Papo (author of the famous work Pele Yoetz), in his Elef Ha-magein Torah commentary, finds in this command a broader message relevant to religious life generally.  Like the man with children from both a more preferred wife and a less preferred wife, to all of whom he has certain responsibilities, we all have in our lives obligations that we like more and those which we like less.  Some religious responsibilities assigned to us by the Torah appeal to us more than others.  And, like that father, we instinctively wish to grant priority to our “preferred” obligations, to those which we find more enjoyable, more convenient, or more intellectually or emotionally satisfying.  We are naturally inclined to pay greater attention to these areas of Torah life than to those which we find more difficult, more tedious, or less gratifying.  The Torah’s command to the father of these two children, Rav Papo writes, warns us against compromising our commitment to those aspects of religious observance which do not immediately appeal to us, which we find uninteresting or uninspiring.  Our devotion to Torah, and our determination to meet all the obligations it imposes upon us, must be unconditional, absolute and all-encompassing, and not subject to our personal whims and preferences.