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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Poetic Midrash on Parshat Ki Tetze - the Stubborn and Rebellious Child

This week's parashah/portion Ki Tetzei (Devarim/Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19) contains one of the most disturbing, and frequently commented upon passages in the Torah:

"If a man has a stubborn or rebellious son, who will nothearken to the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and though they discipline him, he will not listen to them; then his father and his mother shall take hold of him, and bring him out tothe elders of his city, and into the gate of his place; and they shall say to the elders of his city: `This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he does not listen to our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shall you put away the evil from your midst; and all Israel shall hear and fear." (21: 18-21)."

The rabbis of the Talmud claim that this practice did not take place. Rather, they believe (or claimed) that these verses were included in the Torah in order to teach us. Or, as Hertz claims in his
commentary "Its presence in the Torah was merely to serve as a warning, and bring out with the strongest possible emphasis the heinous crime of disobedience to parents."

This interpretation never sat very well with me, nor has any other that I have read. However, by reading the text as taking place within the psyche/spirit of the individual a thought occurred to me. First, I became cognizant for the first time of the fact that the Hebrew for "stubborn and rebellious son", which is ben sorer u'moreh, can also be translated as "son of a stubborn and rebellious person." If this is the case the opening verse could read, "If a person [becomes aware] that he has [a son who is the son of] a stubborn and rebellious person …" In other words, the stubborn and rebellious person (I will switch from the gender specific "son" and "man" at this point) can be the son, the father and/or both. They can also
represent the different parts within each of us.

In this passage the command to take the stubborn and rebellious person, whoever that may be, before the elders sitting in the gate for stoning then takes on a whole new meaning. I view the gate as representing the gates to the soul. Therefore, the elders, representing the community and its collective wisdom and power in the Biblical world, represent the collective wisdom, power – and compassion – that is within each of us and which is part of our unique selves and our collective unconscious – or the oneness of the Divine that connects us all.


The Stubborn and Rebellious One

I am
The One
The child-parent
Stubborn
rebellious
unwilling
To listen
Pay attention

To the voice
The Only voice
Within us all
Calling
Us
To return

I am
a glutton
My passions and desires
Controlling all
Devouring all
I
See
Feel
Hear
Taste
Desire

No boundaries
No limits
No control
All
I
See
Is
Mine

Within me there is
A part
Apparent
A parent
Calling to me
From within
The depths of
My soul

Listen
Return
Connect

Within me there is
A part
Apparent
A child
Ignoring the words
The wisdom
Hearing only the sensations
Passions
Desires

Blocking out the feelings
Compassion
Divine fire
Within

Suddenly
I am uprooted
From my spot
From safety
My eyes and ears
Are open
I see
I hear recognize
For the first time
The voice within
Not without
The voice of
Compassion Mercy Strength

I hear its call
I am surrounded
By the wisdom of the ages
Calling to me
Warning me
Making me aware of
Who
What
I have allowed my self to
Become

I have devoured more
Than anyone needs
I have denied the Truth
Connection
Love
Oneness
God
Within
I can see that
Now
Too late
Perhaps

The stones are cast
They strike my soul
No
They strike the wall
So carefully built
Surrounding my soul
Keeping me
Disconnected apart distant
Alone

The stones
Hard as a hammer
Soft as a kiss
Strike the wall
But it will not crack

I feel the pounding
The pain
The suffering
But the wall remains
In tact
More stones
Are thrown
The pain is unbearable
I cry out for it
To cease
It does not
I want to die
I cannot
I want to live
I cannot
I can only feel
Deep within
The pain of the hammer
The comfort of the kiss
Together oneandthesame

Then
Unexpectedly
I feel it
A crack in the wall
I feel it
The desire passion attachment
The self-centered unawareness
Oozing out


The crack gets larger and deeper
The pain becomes more intense
Then it begins to subside
Slowly
As the wall breaks down
The desire anger bitterness
The conceit and hubris
That has built it
Is now a flood
Pouring out of the gate of my ego
Revealing
The gate of my soul
Always there
In hiding
Awaiting this day
My return
To it
To me
To us
To the One

I am
The One
At One
With you
With all
Standing in the gate
Of our soul
Surrounded
By the wisdom
Love

Compassion
Strength
The Divine

No longer stubborn

Able finally
To pay attention
To hear and see
The one
Within us all
At least
For
This
moment

1 comment:

Shai Gluskin said...

Nice reading of this difficult text!. Your reading made me think of another difficult text, that sins of the parents are passed down to their children for three to four generations.

We inherit our "stuff" and we pass it on as well. Hope comes in making some tikun in each generation.

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