Monday, November 7, 2011

Where He is At

I always had a question about a rashi in parshat vayeira.

Hagar and Yishmael were sent away by Avraham. On the way they get lost and Yishmael is in danger of dying of thirst.
Hashem tells Hagar that they will be saved - that Hashem has seen the boy "baasher hu sham" - "where he is at."
Rashi says the angels complained to Hashem. Looking into the future, we know that Yishmael's descendants will try to destroy the Jews. Why would you choose to save him?
Hashem says that is not a proper way to act. We judge people "where they are at now" and we don't hold potential future sins against them. Even though future Yishmael will be bad, right now Yishmael is a thirsty child who needs water.
While that is a great lesson that can easily be applied to our lives, I have always struggled to square it with the mitzva of Ben sorer umoreh - the rebellious son in parshat ki tetze.
There Rashi says we punish a boy based on the potential of future sins. Does anyone out there have an answer?


  1. This question has been asked by many ...
    The basic answer is , that there is a distinct difference between Yishmael and a be sorer umoreh. We know that although G-D knows our future actions we are not punished until we actually decide to transgress. Therefore although Yishmael's actions in the future will be detrimental he was not punished until he actually decided to commit them. A ben sorer umoreh however, has already made decisions and it is only because he is still young that his poor decisions have not yet impacted society but as he grows older and his desires grow with him he certainly will. It is for this reason that he is "nidon al shem sofo" . It must be noted however that although Yishmael's actions forced Avraham to separate him from Yitzchak they did not warrant a death sentence.

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