The Unknown

Elul 13, 5782
September 9, 2022
Candlelighting Time 7:00 PM

            The parsha introduces a very unusual situation where a young man overindulges in eating a certain amount of meat and imbibing wine. Even though he is only 13 years old, there is a concern that his lifestyle will lead him astray and eventually he will become a criminal, stealing from others to support his hedonistic attitude. Therefore, although he is presently within the margins of permissive conduct, we foresee impending complications. We execute him now so that he will die as an essentially innocent and virtuous person.

            When the Torah mandates his capital punishment the language used is that we have eradicated evil from our midst. This is rather difficult to comprehend since at this time the young man is still considered moral although if allowed to continue upon this path he will eventually morph into a villain. So, although we can appreciate the concern and need to remove him from society, still to define him as evil seems inappropriate.

            The famed Vilna Gaon has a very astute comment about this. The Torah obligates us to eliminate the evil from our midst. What is the meaning of ‘from our midst.’ He explains that the corruptive lifestyle that this young man has adopted may not have corrupted him yet, however, if we permit this type of conduct to infiltrate into our cities, then others will be influenced by this behavior, tempted to embrace his deportment and this destructive element will ruin the very integrity of our society. This is the evil that the Torah refers to. It is truly amazing to understand that one person’s conduct could be so powerful and penetrating that an entire city would be affected by his treacherous ways, yet we do clearly see that the Torah is extremely concerned and we are commanded to effectively suppress his impact upon others that witness his behavior.

            However, we now see the importance of exemplary comportment and  that we must be so cautious not to lead others astray. And this prudence requires us to actively remove that influence from our midst. Therefore, we can now clearly understand the significance that one who conducts himself properly, observing the mitzvos and learning Torah, will serve as a catalyst and facilitator for others that will surely emulate him and attempt to fulfill the Torah’s mandates with diligence and attentiveness. Surely during this time of the year as we approach the Days of Awe, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur one who spurs others to upgrade and enhance their performance will have that merit at that time.         

            The Aramaic translation of the Chumash of Onkelos and Yonasan ben Uziel seem to also follow the thought of the Vilna Gaon. They render when the Torah states that we must eradicate evil from our midst as saying that we must eliminate one who is acting in an evil manner. Certainly, this is the point that they are stressing.

                  The Talmud states that there never was a young man that was executed for this type of behavior. So why did the Torah write this parsha? Because we are supposed to expound upon it and receive reward. Perhaps this is what the Talmud is telling us. We derive from this parsha a tremendous inspiration as to the power of even just one person, and even just a young man. Surely, as we observe the elevated manner of those in our community that are highly respected, we can become inspired by their example and attempt to inculcate the lessons that we  realize of how they are careful in their observance to our lives as well.


When we see another’s donkey struggling with its burden we must lift it up together with the owner so that it will not fall. As we lift it up, we are also lifting ourselves up when we assist others.S’FAS EMES