Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

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We know that parents who disrespect one another don’t just harm each other.

They also harm their children. And in multiple ways.

Firstly, children are deeply pained when they see their parents disrespecting one another.

Secondly, they will suffer in how they are prone to becoming disrespectful people themselves. That will, likely, happen because those exposed to interparental disrespect will view disrespect as “normal.” Those for whom disrespect is “normal” may make disrespect a “life-norm” – and disrespect their own family and friends accordingly.

Yes, children are terribly harmed when parents disrespect one another.

What, though, if parents share different points of view - but don’t disrespect each other?

What if parents respectfully disagree?

Such disagreements – which facilitate thoughtful exchanges of ideas - won’t harm children.

Quite the reverse.

Such disagreements can help them. And in many ways.

Firstly, seeing people disagree respectfully – which usually involves hearing two different perspectives on one matter – teaches children about different vantage points.

That knowledge encourages children to explore issues from many angles. That, in turn, increases their ability to solve future problems.

Those disagreements also teach children about tolerance. Why? Because parents who disagree with one another - but who still respect one another - demonstrate that we can tolerate difference.

As well, parents who “differ” from each other can better “reach” their different children. And that’s because children – who may “differ” from their parents – are more easily “reached” by parents who, already at the parental level, accommodate “differences.”

Lastly, spouses with different ideas will engage in the following “dialectic disagreements”: One spouse will suggest an idea – philosophers called that a “thesis.” The other spouse then disagrees and counters that idea with an “anti-idea” –philosophers call that an “antithesis.”

When that disagreement is respectful, both spouses will be happy to listening to each other. That will allow them to “synthesize” the best of each other’s ideas into a thought-out “synthesis.”

Such synthesized ideas will facilitate better parental decisions - and healthier children.

All of this is borne out by the following possuk: “And Hashem said….it isn’t good for man to be alone, let me make him a helpmate, against him.” [1]

That helpmate – Adam’s wife – was meant to be “against him.” Which makes sense, given, as we just demonstrated that spouses should counter each other.[2]

All this sheds light on the following passage in our parsha: “If a …. rebellious son ….does not listen to his father and to his mother. And they discipline him. But he still doesn’t listen to them. Then his father and mother should take him to the city elders …and say, our son is rebellious, he does not listen to us, he is a glutton and a drunk. Then …they should stone him and he should die.”[3]

This mandate is qualified by the following stipulation: “We only execute a rebellious son when his parents are similar in their voices, in their appearance and in their stature.”[4]

It’s all so mysterious. We execute a child simply because he is gluttonous? And we reverse a death-penalty, simply because that defendant’s parents don’t look like each other?

These mysteries are elucidated by a Gemara that notes: “the story of the rebellious son never was and never will be.”[5] The “rebellious son” mandate was “on the books” - but it wasn’t meant to be actualized. Indeed, no rebellious son was ever executed.[6]

If this mandate isn’t about actually killing somebody then it must be, as that same Gemara notes, about “studying this story and drawing valuable messages from it.”[7]

One such message – emerging from the fact that “look-alike” parents “produce” rebellious sons – may be one that monochromatic “look-alike” parenting abets children’s rebelliousness.[8]


Because such poor parenting – which doesn’t “synthesize” different parental ideas – lays the groundwork for rebellious children.

No, it’s not easy for parents when they “look different” from each other.

“Different” parents must accommodate each other’s different viewpoints. That’s hard. And “different” parents will redact each other’s thesis. That, too, is hard.

It is, though, much harder for “look alike” parents who – as we just demonstrated - are likelier to produce a rebellious son.

Let’s remember that, when we next disagree with our spouse.

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim. Rabbi Weber will be scholar in residence at the Hudson Valley Resort for the Yomim Noraim & Sukkos. For information, please email or call (845) 794-6000

[1] Bereishis 2:18

[2] Gur Aryeh ad loc.

[3] Devarim 21:18-21

[4] Sanhedrin 71a

[5] Ibid.

[6] Rabbi Yehuda’s opinion, Sanhedrin 71a

[7] ibid.

[8] Devarim 21:18-21

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