Child Abuse

Parshas Vayera

Yishmael’s behavior was not befitting the house of Avrohom. Moreover, his influence on Yitzchok would have been disastrous for Yitzchok’s growth. On the advice of Sarah, Avrohom banished Yishmael, and disowned him. Not only did Avrohom send him away; he sent Yishmael’s mother, Hagar, with him. The bad influence he would have exerted on Yitzchok was in some part due to his mother’s teaching. After leaving Avrohom’s home, they wandered and became lost in the desert. Yishmael was ill and was dying of thirst. Hagar could not endure witnessing his demise.  The Torah records “She cast Yishmael under one of the bushes, and sat at a distance”

Question

Hagar  couldn’t bear to see her son’s imminent death, and her subsequent behavior wasn’t very motherly either. A normal mother would stay at her dying son’s side, hold his hand, and try to comfort him. I can understand that she was not on this level to do something positive for her son. But she acted negatively – she threw him down! Is this how one behaves towards her own child? Does one hurl down a sick, pained child?

Answer

Some people raise children because they want to give. They want to give to the world, by populating and developing it. They want to give to their children by caring for them. Hagar on the other hand, selfishly had children to benefit her. They enabled Hagar to promote her own image. When Hagar conceived after marrying Avrohom, she began to gloat over Sarah. She announced “This lady, Sarah, appears to be righteous! She can’t be so wonderful. For ten years she was married to Avrohom without meriting to have children. And I became pregnant right away!”. Hagar used her children as a weapon to overpower other people. Likewise once Yishmael was dying and didn’t seem likely to survive, he became an unnecessary burden.  As soon as it seemed that Yishmael was no longer viable, she had no course but to get rid of this hindrance by “casting him under the bushes”

Lesson

Many wish for offspring. Why?

Story

When Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer known as the “Ksav Sofer” (1815 -1871) was six years old, members of the Sofer family fell ill. Among those ailing was little Shmuel Volf,as he was called. The doctors had already given up on him. As a segulah “Avraham” was added to his name, but to no avail. They called the Chevra Kadisha, lit candles, and they said the last rites. Then the doctors approached his father the “Chasam Sofer” and said “We know that you are a holy man; with your prayers you may be able to help your son”. After hearing this the Chasam Sofer went to a corner where all his manuscripts were and said a short prayer. At that time the sick child, Avraham Shmuel Binyomin, in his great weakness started screaming the Shema. Their combined prayers were answered; Shmuel Binyomin’s condition took a turn for the better. The doctors were deeply impressed and said to the Chasam Sofer “Now we truly know that you are a G-dly man.” The Chasam Sofer responded that he hadn’t given up hope, not even for a second. The students of the Chasam Sofer later testified that the Chasam Sofer said at the time “My tefillos have been accepted for fifty years.” The Ksav Sofer lived for a further fifty years, dying at age fifty six.

When the Ksav Sofer became bar mitzvah, he delivered a drashah that captivated the audience with its brilliance and chiddushim. After the drashah, he was deluged with gifts. A well-known member of the kehillah,  Reb Ber Frank,also gave the bar mitzvah boy a gift; a silver sheath with candles arranged in it. The Ksav Sofer asked what the significance of this present was. Reb Ber Frank explained,“Seven years ago your light  was almost stifled, and the Chevra Kadisha lit these candles for you. Now it is apparent that your light was not extinguished. You are as brilliant as the sun at midday”.

The candles are currently in the possession of Rav Simcha Bunim Sofer of Yerushalayim.

Weekly Halacha

One may zip the lining of a winter coat on Shabbos even if it will remain for many months.

4 Comments

  1. I saw a similar point from Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. He writes and I quote “one who abandons a child a does nothing because ‘she cannot bear to see the child’s misery’ does not act out of compassion. Such conduct reflects the cruel egotism of a brutish character. True humanity is marked by a sense of duty that is capable of mastering even the strongest of emotions. A sense of duty makes one forget his own painful feelings and enables him to extend help and assistance, even if one can do no more than give the comfort of one’s compassionate presence”. Her attitude definitly fits with the act of casting down the child.

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