Are Parents Actually Crazy? by Eitan Leff


In this week’s Parashah, Nadav and Avihu die for bringing an Eish Zarah, foreign fire, before Hashem. The Haftarah portion of each Parashah is chosen because the Haftarah connects to what happens in the Torah. The Haftarah for this week is Shmu’el II 6:1-7:17, in which  Uzzah ben Avinadav is killed by Hashem for touching the Aron. The Haftarah connects to the Parashah because in the both the Torah and Haftarah, people die while trying to do something for Hashem. Nadav and Avihu try to give a Korban to Hashem and Uzzah tries to stop the Aron from falling.

Later in the Haftarah, David moves the Aron from the house of Oveid-Edom HaGitti to the City of David. While the Aron is being moved, David sings and dances. When David returns to his household, his wife, Michal bat Sha’ul, says sarcastically “Mah Nichbad HaYom Melech Yisra’el Asher Niglah HaYom LeEinei Amhot Avadav KeHigalot Niglot Achad HaReikim,” "How honorable was the king of Israel today, exposing himself today in the sight of the servants of his subjects, as one of the riffraff might expose himself!” (Shmu’el Bet 6:20). David HaMelech answers her that he is dancing before Hashem, who chose David over Michal’s father, Sha’ul. As a punishment for questioning David, Michal has no more children.

How is not having kids an Onesh Middah KeNeged Middah, measure for measure consequence? We can answer this question by quoting a Midrash. The Yalkut Shimoni (Tehillim 846) states that people act like fools to entertain their children because a person’s love for his child is greater than his sense of normalcy. Should a person not love Hashem at least as much as he loves his children? David “acted like a fool” to dance before the Aron and Michal questioned David for “acting like a fool” as someone would for a child. So she was denied more children.

Another application of this Yalkut Shimoni could be a question posed to Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein in Teshuvot VeHa’arev Na. This was the case: a wealthy Jew died and did not have any children, so in his will he gave money toward Torah study and towards the welfare of the mentally ill, who are unable to care for themselves. The only condition of his donation for the mentally ill was that only the mentally ill of his town would be able to take from the fund. One day, a widower with a large family asked for some money from the charity for the mentally ill, which had a lot of available money due to the fact that only the mentally ill from one town were allowed to take from it. The trustee of the fund refused the widower because the money was meant for mentally ill people, not widowers.

The widower decided to bring the Yalkut Shimoni in Tehillim 846 as a proof that he actually was mentally ill. The Midrash says “a father once stipulated in his will that his son may not inherit his estate until the son goes mad. R’ Yossi ben R’ Yehuda and Rebbe went to R’ Yehoshu’a ben Karchah to ask him [how to interpret this stipulation]. They peeked inside R’ Yehoshu’a’s house and found him crawling on his hands and knees…following his young child around the house. [After he had finished playing with his child,] they entered R’ Yehoshu’a’s home and told him about the condition in the will. R’ Yehoshu’a laughed and said, ‘I have just now fulfilled the condition of which you speak.’ They answered him, ‘From here we see that if a man has children, he acts as if he has gone mad.’” The Rabbis concluded that the deceased man’s intention was to let his son claim the inheritance only after he had children of his own.

The widower therefore concluded that he was eligible to take money from the fund for the mentally ill since he had to act like a fool to entertain his children. Is he correct?

Perhaps this case could be analogous to a case of moving Tzedakah funds from one charity to another. R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskin allowed money given to an orphanage to be re-appropriated to purchase Mezuzot for the needy. R’ Yehoshua said that Mezuzot granted long life, and by giving the needy Mezuzot, they will live longer, which will help prevent their kids from having to be cared for by the orphanage.

Rav Zilberstein rejects the analogy to the orphanage case because in the orphanage case, the money that is taken away from the orphanage will in the end help the orphanage--the orphanage will not need to take care of the children of poor people because their parents will be alive. By contrast, in the case of the widower, the wealthy Jew made the fund only for people who were actually mentally ill, not for people who joke with their children. Giving this money to a widower will not bring any benefit to the mentally ill, so it is not allowed. We want to help people who are in need of immediate assistance to survive. 

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