He who spares the rod hates his child (Proverbs 13:24): True?

February 8, 2021 by Rabbi Raymond Apple
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Ask the rabbi.

Rabbi Raymond Apple

GOD IN KADDISH

Q. Why does Kaddish praise the name of God, and not praise God Himself?

A. This is one of the leading features of Jewish prayer. God is too great for us to adequately praise Him, so we praise His name.

Kaddish begins “Yitgaddal veyitkaddash sh’mei rabba”, “His great name be magnified and praised”; He is so infinitely great that we cannot magnify Him any further, and we pray that the world will magnify its belief in Him.

The first paragraph leads to the response, “Yehei sh’mei rabba mevarach”, “May His great name be blessed”. This is the oldest sentence in Kaddish and is based on a prayer of David (Psalm 113:2) and Daniel (Dan. 2:20).

The Talmud says (Shab. 119b) that if one utters this response with all his might, any adverse decree about him is torn up. Here too the emphasis is on God’s name.

Our task is to spread His name and power everywhere in the world.

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

Q. Does Judaism still believe that “He who spares the rod hates his child” (Proverbs 13:24)?

A. In theory, Jewish law does believe in corporal punishment.

The sentence you have quoted justifies parental discipline (cf. Prov. 19:18, “Chasten your child, for then there is hope”), though it is a rhetorical exaggeration to say that to avoid physical punishment is to hate the child. The second half of Prov. 13:24 says, “He who loves (his child) sometimes chastises him”.

However, it is better to try other methods and to use corporal punishment only as a last resort. Otherwise, a parent can end up being a hated bully.

The same can be said about teachers – today, very rare – who use the strap or the cane on their pupils. The halachah allows a teacher to use a shoe latchet on a refractory child (BB 21a), but in modern education, corporal punishment is ill-advised and likely to invite pupil violence or at least court action.

The Torah refers to flogging with forty lashes (in practice, 39: Makk. 3:10) as a punishment for various offences (Deut. 25:2). This procedure remains on the statute book but its applicability has been legislated out of existence, especially since it could be imposed only if there were a Sanhedrin.

In certain cases of emergency, a Jewish court sometimes had the power to inflict corporal punishment as a deterrent, but this was “hora’at sha’ah”, a procedure required by the needs of the moment.

A modern Beth Din does not flog anyone, and corporal punishment has been banned by Israeli law.

PURIM CHARACTERS IN THE TORAH

Q. Is it true that the Talmud says that Esther and Haman are mentioned in the Torah? How can this be when the Torah predates the Purim story?

A. From the strictly historical point of view, characters from the Megillah could not have been mentioned, since the Purim story took place centuries after the Torah was written.

But the sages were not joking or just cracking puns (Chullin 139b) when they saw a hint of Esther in the verse, “I will surely hide (‘astir’) My face” (Deut. 31:18).

They were saying that God is always there even if He seems to have hidden His face, and He emerges from “hiding” in order to save His people.

Likewise, there is a hint of Haman in the verse, “Did you eat from (‘ha-min’) the tree?” (Gen. 5:11), which indicates that the evil instinct goes back to the beginning of history.

Rabbi Raymond Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia’s oldest and most prestigious congregation. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem where he answers interesting questions.

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