Academic journal article Shofar

Teaching "The Stubborn and Rebellious Son": Orthophagy, Adolescence, and Jewish Education

Academic journal article Shofar

Teaching "The Stubborn and Rebellious Son": Orthophagy, Adolescence, and Jewish Education

Article excerpt

Through the examination of the "stubborn and rebellious son" (Deuteronomy 21) and later rabbinic understandings and resolution of this case, Mendelsohn Aviv expounds an alternative pedagogy that integrates classical perspectives with more recent research on adolescent behavior and embodied learning. Jewish tradition touts numerous examples of what Mendelsohn Aviv calls orthophagy or "right eating"-which not only reflects divine commandment (as in the case of dietary laws), but also attests to a person's wisdom and scholarly stature. Moreover, orthophagy lays the groundwork for orthopraxy, or "right doing." In other words, eating right is a lesson in and for doing right.

1. Introduction-Orthophagy and Jewish Tradition

Jewish tradition touts numerous examples of what I call orthophagy, or "right eating." Orthophagy is not just a matter of divine commandment (as in the case of dietary laws), but also attests to a person's wisdom and scholarly stature.1 It encompasses table manners, food choices, and dietary regimens. Moreover, orthophagy lays the groundwork for orthopraxy, or "right doing." Orthophagy is a preliminary, yet foundational step toward orthopraxy, both of which share the same ultimate purpose-the attainment of qedushah, holiness. In other words, eating right is a lesson in and for doing right. And conversely, eating wrong is as surely then a precursor for doing wrong.

The law of the stubborn and rebellious son is an explicit example of "wrong eating," whose mandated punishment is death. Through an examination of how later rabbinic authorities came to understand and resolve their discomfort on this matter, I will briefly elaborate upon my "Jewish Gastronomic Pedagogy," an approach to Jewish education that integrates classical rabbinic perspectives with research on food, adolescent behavior, and embodied learning. Though grounded in Jewish tradition, this perspective is relevant in other religious educational settings as well as secular settings, as it speaks to the very nature of the relationship between educators and their adolescent charges. In other words, through this perspective one might learn how to connect with and teach the many purported stubborn and rebellious sons that populate our classrooms.

2. The Law of the Stubborn and Rebellious Son

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken to them.

Then shall his father and his mother lay hold of him, and bring him out to the elders of his city, and to the gate of his place. And they shall say to the elders of his city: "This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard."

And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

The book of Deuteronomy consists of a series of long farewell addresses delivered by Moses to the Children of Israel. Moses recounts their travails in the desert since the liberation from Egyptian bondage. He also introduces seventy new laws, many of which will only be relevant in the upcoming post-wandering period when the Children of Israel are to assume ownership of the Promised Land.

Though Chapter 21 concentrates on wartime conduct, the Deuteronomist also presents four laws, three to five verses in length. Of these four laws, only the first ostensibly relates to wars. Each law follows a similar structure. The first verse in each law introduces an individual-a beautiful female captive, an ill-favored eldest son, a stubborn and rebellious son, and a condemned man. The subsequent verses present relevant particulars and clarifications and conclude with a judgment. For example, if an Israelite man takes a beautiful woman captive during wartime, she must shave her head, let her nails grow, and mourn for a month. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.