Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Vayeishev

Oh Baby!

Volume 6 Issue 8

by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

Baby. In the sixties it was a term of poetic affection meted to any living organism that a particular party was interested in. In the school yard, its chant -- and a directive to stick its head in a sauce usually reserved for a roast -- is a verbal taunt usually invoked by one of two immature sparring partners.

But when the Torah refers to someone as a child or a na'ar it is taken very seriously. Often it raises a flag. It is reason to analyze and deduce. The word na'ar is often translated a child. It is hardly used for an infant and rarely for a mature adolescent. But when applied in those circumstances, the commentaries note its usage, and they comment.

In fact, when infant Moshe is found in a reed basket floating on the Nile, the Torah tells us that the daughter of Pharaoh heard a na'ar crying. (Exodus 2:6). Rashi comments on the apparent anomaly. After all the word na'ar is not used for an infant. He explains by quoting Midrashic sources that Moshe had a voice like a mature lad.

This week, the term na'ar is also used, and on the surface it is not complimentary. "Yoseph was 17-years-old and was a shepherd with his brothers by the flock, but he was a na'ar with the children of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. Again the expression na'ar raises a flag. The Medrash obviously feels that that term should be reserved for children younger than teens. And so the Medrash asks, is it fitting to label a 17-year-old a Na'ar? It teaches us that at that age Yoseph acted immaturely; dressing his hair and adorning his eyes to look handsome.

(Ramban feels that the term na'ar would apply, as he was youngest of all the brothers except for Benjamin, a mere child at the time.)

The Sfas Emes asks a powerful question. If the term na'ar is out of place for anyone even approaching his late teens then an earlier verse surely needs clarification.

In Parshas Vayeirah Avraham travels for three days together with his sons Yitzchak and Yishmael, and his servant Eliezer, pursuing Hashem's command to bring his son as an offering on Mount Moriah. As he finally sees the mountain, he knows it is time to conclude the journey alone with only Yitzchak. So Avraham tells Yishmael and Eliezer, "remain here with the donkey, and I and the na'ar will go yonder." (Genesis 22:5).

Yitzchak was 37-years old at the time, yet not one commentator is troubled that his father calls him a baby! Why?

A man once approached my grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky, of blessed memory, quite distraught.

"I know this may not sound like a major problem," he began, "but my 17-year-old daughter is very upset with me. It has come to a point that she hardly talks to me. It began a few nights ago. My wife and I were with a number of old friends at a wedding when my daughter walked by. I introduced her to them by saying, 'This is my baby.'

"I could see that at the moment she became very upset. Moments later she pulled me to aside and was crying. 'You still think I'm a baby!' she sobbed. 'I am almost eighteen already, and all you do is call me your baby! Won't I ever be a grown-up in your eyes?' Ever since then she doesn't want to talk to me."

The man shrugged as he pleaded with the sage. "I really don't want to make this into a major issue, but I'm not sure how to resolve this. Perhaps the Rosh Yeshiva can guide me."

Reb Yaakov put his hand on the man's shoulder. "You live in Flatbush, don't you?"

At the time Reb Yaakov was staying at his youngest son, Reb Avraham's home, and he invited the man to visit him there together with his daughter. He assured him that he would not discuss the incident but was confident that by the time the visit was over the matter would be resolved."

The next day the man and his daughter visited Reb Yaakov at Reb Avraham's home. Reb Yaakov invited the man and his daughter into the dining room where they discussed a variety of issues from school work to life in pre-war Europe everything but the incident at the wedding.

About 10 minutes into the conversation, my uncle, Reb Avraham, came down the stairs. Reb Yaakov looked over to him and invited him to join the conversation. But first he introduced Reb Avraham to his guests.

"This is my baby!" exclaimed the revered sage as he gave a warm hug to his 55-year-old son.

Needless to say, the impact on the 17-year-old girl changed her perspective on her father's comments. Fifteen minutes later they left the house with a renewed and invigorated relationship!

The Sfas Emes answers his question very simply. When the Torah in a narrative describes someone as a na'ar it is a flag for concern. It needs explanation, whether complimentary or otherwise. But when a father calls a child his na'ar there is no need to explain. It is simple and more than acceptable. And Hashem Himself refers to his children that way. "When Israel was a na'ar and I loved him, and since Egypt I have called him my child" (Hosea 10).

Good Shabbos 1999 Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

Dedicated in memory of Elias Felig, Eliyahu Moshe ben Dovid -- 25 Kislev -- by Dr. and Mrs. Philip Felig

If you would like to be on a shiur update list which sends messages regarding Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky's various lectures in NY City and Long Island and other locations, please send a blank email to rmkshiur-subscribe@jif.org.il You will receive bulletins about those classes.

If you want to be on a shiur announcement faxlist, fax request along with your fax number (dedicated line, please) to 516-569-7954

Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.

If you enjoy the weekly Drasha, now you can receive the best of Drasha in book form!
Purchase Parsha Parables - from the Project Genesis bookstore - Genesis Judaica - at a very special price!

The author is the Associate Dean of the Yeshiva of South Shore.

Drasha is the e-mail edition of FaxHomily, a weekly torah facsimile on the weekly portion
which is sponsored by The Henry and Myrtle Hirsch Foundation


 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON KEDOSHIM AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

The Value of Reverence
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5764

Beyond Common (In)Cense
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

> Separate and Pure
Shlomo Katz - 5759

In the "Judging Business"
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760

Not Just an Act of Kindness
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Parshas Kedoshim
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Sefiras HaOmer and Rabbi Akiva
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Good Salesman
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5764

ArtScroll

Reacting to Tragedy
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

Holiness Applies to More than Bagel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5757

...And Hear It We Must
Rabbi Label Lam - 5762

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Accountable for Our Priorities
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

Of Demons and Goats
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

All the Rest is Commentary!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

In Pursuit Of Holiness
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information