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Matot-Masay 5776

Masay (Numbers 33-36 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  When do you spank your child? When I grew up it was, "Wait until your father comes home!" Then my father would take me into his bedroom, close the door and spank me. One time I got the clever idea of putting a thin book (hard-cover) in the back of my pants. My father spanked me "not noticing" the book. I am forever grateful.

Years later I took my son into my bedroom to discipline him. Figuring he was a bit old for a spanking, but wanting to make an impression on his younger siblings outside the door, I asked him, "Do you realize that what you did was wrong and why it was wrong?" "Yes" he remorsefully responded. "You won't do it again?" "No" he solemnly replied. "Then here's what we're going to do. I am going to slap my knee and you are going to yell out." He smiled, loving the idea. I hit my knee and he cried out. I did it a second time and he cried. I did it a third time and he cried out even louder. Cautioning him to look solemn and regretful, we walked out of the room.

Popular culture goes through waves of permissiveness and strictness. Back in the 50's and 60's Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care (now in it's ninth edition) was the "bible." It advised not to spank your child. Originally published in 1946, Dr. Spock (no relation to Star Trek) was later criticized for "allegedly propagating permissiveness and instant gratification that led young people to join (the anti-Viet Nam war) movements."

I know one person who told me that he raised his child with Dr. Spock's book and "had no problem with permissiveness or rebellion." He would use the book to spank his son.

King Solomon, considered to be the wisest of anyone who ever lived, advised in Mishley (Proverbs) 13:24, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." He also wrote in Koheles (Ecclesiastes) 3:1 "There is a time for everything..." So, when, how and why should one spank his child?

I asked my teacher, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, to clarify and advise. He started with a story, a parable: "A little boy was playing with a ball on his driveway; the ball got away from him and rolled into the street. The boy followed the ball, oblivious to the oncoming car. The driver slams on his brakes, narrowly missing the child and then lowers the window near the child and starts yelling at him to watch where he's going and not to play in the street. The driver drives off and the boy returns to play with his ball on the driveway.

Again, the ball gets away from the boy and he chases it into the street with a repeat performance of the driver narrowly avoiding hitting the boy, rolling down his window and screaming at the child. The third time it happens, the third driver throws his car in park, leaving it running in the middle of the street, door left open and takes chase after the child to 'spank the living daylights' out of him. Who is the third driver? The child's father!"

"Why" asked Rabbi Weinberg "did only the third driver take chase after the child? The other drivers may have cared about not hitting a child, but the third driver loved his son and wanted to make sure he would never do it again!" One spanks his child when there is truly an important lesson to be learned!

Rabbi Weinberg advised that a parent should never spank his child when he's angry, but whenever the situation is serious enough to warrant corporal punishment, the parent should display anger to add to the impact of the punishment. Hitting one's child is NOT about the parent expressing his anger and venting his rage. It is about imparting an important lesson in life on what not to do.

Rabbi Weinberg also advised not to use one's hand when hitting, but to use an object -- like Dr. Spock's book. I am sure that this advice was based on King Solomon writing "spare the rod" rather "spare administering corporal punishment." Explained Rabbi Weinberg that hitting with an object makes the punishment one degree less personal -- it is not you/your hand that is imparting the punishment. Also, there is a delay which will dissipate the anger while searching for something appropriate to take in hand to spank.

Lastly, Rabbi Weinberg told me that if one punishes his child appropriately, the child will learn to listen to his parents and that one would rarely need to spank him after age 2 or 3.

There is a time for everything. Love your child. Spend time with your child. Quality time is really quantity time. Your child will know that you love him because your priority is to spend your time with him or her. However, if you want your child to learn that there are boundaries for behavior, be prepared to show that love through spanking your child.


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Torah Portion of the week

Matos and Masei, Numbers 30:2 - 36:13

Matos includes the laws of making and annulling vows, the surprise attack on Midian (the '67 War wasn't the Jewish people's first surprise attack!) in retribution for the devastation the Midianites wreaked upon the Jewish people, the purification after the war of people and vessels, dedicating a portion of the spoils to the communal good (perhaps the first Federation campaign), the request of the tribes of Reuben and Gad for their portion of land to be east of the Jordan river (yes, Trans-Jordan/Jordan is also part of the Biblical land of Israel). Moshe objects to the request because he thinks the tribes will not take part in the conquering of the land of Israel; the tribes clarify that they will be the advance troops in the attack and thus receive permission.

Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there). God commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system. God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel. New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated. Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah tells us that when the tribes of Reuben and Gad made their request to settle east of the Jordan, they offered to be in the forefront of the army conquering the Land of Israel. They told Moses that: "pens for the flock shall we build here for our livestock and cities for our small children" (Num. 32:16).

Rashi states that the words of Gad and Reuben, placing the provisions for their livestock before that of their children, indicates that they accorded greater value to their possessions than to their children.

We may ask, how could anyone possibly give greater importance to their possessions than to their children? We may indeed be critical of Gad and Reuben, and be totally unaware that many of us are guilty of the same thing.

Today, a parent returns home from work late, and equipped with a cell phone, his mealtime with the children is interrupted. Whatever time he or she could spend with them is commandeered by business calls.

There is nothing that should take preference over our children. We must teach our children and we must discipline them, because without discipline they cannot possibly make an optimum adjustment to life. But at all times, our primary concern must be what is best for them, rather than what is best for us. If these two should conflict, the child's welfare must be given preference.


Candle Lighting Times

August 5
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:57
Guatemala 6:11 - Hong Kong 6:44 - Honolulu 6:50
J'Burg 5:26 - London 8:23 - Los Angeles 7:32
Melbourne 5:18 - Mexico City 7:52 - Miami 7:46
New York 7:48 - Singapore 6:58 - Toronto 8:17

Quote of the Week

Hug your kids at home,
belt them in the car



In Loving Memory of
Harvey Hecker

Beloved husband, father,
grandfather and friend

With Special Thanks to
Mr. & Mrs. Jonas Mimoun


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