Ethics

For the week ending 7 February 2009 / 13 Shevat 5769

Which Son to Save

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: Parents of a "dropout" son are faced with a difficult choice of whether to spend a substantial amount of time and money on trying to bring him back to the fold or to devote their energy and resources in ensuring that his brother, who is meanwhile doing well, does not follow in the path of the wayward son. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: In ruling that the efforts of the parents should be concentrated on the second son, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, the rav of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak, cited both a halachic source and a parable from the Magid of Dubnow.

The Magid told of a fire that broke out in a neighborhood, which brought firemen to the scene. Onlookers noticed that the firemen were hosing water on the houses adjoining the one on fire and not on the blaze itself. When they expressed wonder at what was going on, the head of the firemen explained that that there was little chance of saving the burning house and their efforts were directed towards ensuring that the blaze does not spread to the nearby houses.

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