The weed of crime bears bitter fruit; crime does not pay.

Who knew?

Actually, there’s not a shadow of a doubt that for many people crime does pay.  That’s why there are so many crimes committed, because most of the time, crime pays.  The perpetrator gets away with it.

What are the odds of getting caught?  According to the FBI, not very high.

Let’s look at the numbers.

In 2017, violent crime resulted in an arrest 43.6 percent of the time.

Motor vehicle theft, 12.4 percent of the time.

Property crime, 17.4 percent of the time.

(The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, Crime in the U.S, 2017, Table 25)

These dismal numbers apply only to reported crimes.  Even when a crime is reported, the vast majority of crimes remain unsolved. The vast majority of criminals profit from their crimes.

It is fair to say that anyone who commits a crime has misbehaved.  It is fair to say that anyone who misbehaves is a criminal?  According to American law, no.

A juvenile's acts of misbehavior, ungovernability [sic], or unruliness which do not violate the criminal law should not constitute a ground for asserting juvenile court jurisdiction over the juvenile committing them. (Institute of Judicial Administration, American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Standards Project, Standards Relating To Noncriminal Misbehavior, Page 35)

Doesn’t the Torah tell us differently?  The ben sorair and moreh, the rebellious son, was accused of misbehavior, is only thirteen years old, yet the Torah treats him like a criminal. (Devarim 21:18-21)   

The gemara tells us that the laws of the ben sorair and moreh, the rebellious son, were never applied.

Rabi Yehudah said: if his mother is not fit for his father, he does not become a ben sorair and moreh.  What is meant by “not fit?” …Rabi Yehudah said: If his mother is not like his father in voice, appearance and stature, he does not become a ben sorair and moreh. Why is this? The pasuk says, “he will not obey our voice.’’  Since they must be alike in voice, they must be also in appearance and stature… There never has been a ben sorair and moreh and there never will be. [Since it is obviously impossible that his father and mother should be so exactly alike.]  Why then was the law written? That you may study it and receive reward. (Sanhedrin 71a)

What is the point of learning the laws of a situation that is never going to happen?

That question was first asked by Moshe Rabeinu A”H when Hashem told him to write the Parsha of ben sorair and moreh.  Hashem answered that Moshe should write it and receive reward.  Hashem then directed the Malach Yofiel to explain the reason that there is reward for learning and teaching these laws.

Yofiel taught Moshe that the Yidden shouldn’t think that because we are called banim l’HaShem Elokaichem we could not be [Chas V’Shalom] severely punished.  The Pasuk teaches that a father could, conceivably, do just that to his son.  The reward for teaching this to others is that they will hear this and do Teshuva.  (Zohar HaKadosh, Parshas Balak, cited by Ben Yehoyada on Sanhedrin 71a)

The Maharsha on our gemara understands drosh v’kabail s’char to mean that even when parents believe that their son will abandon his criminal ways when he grows up, they need to study the Torah’s attitude towards such a son and will be rewarded when they chastise their son.  He quotes the gemara (Brachos 17a) that women gain merit for raising their children to learn Torah.   The Maharsha, who lived from 1555 – 1631, then writes “but today, no one pays attention to this and each person covers over [the misdeeds] of his son.”

It is important to note that the Maharsha is referring to the parents of a child whose actions rise to the level of criminality.  In such a case, the parents must be vigilant; they must closely monitor and correct him.  For most parents, such close monitoring would amount to hypervigilance which is unnecessary and may bring about anxiety which can cause exhaustion.  If you’re often exhausted, think about loosening your surveillance of your children.  They will get away with some things.  You and they will survive that, and B’Ezras Hashem, you will be calmer and they will turn out fine.

And think about this: Which term doesn’t belong:

Parent, detective, confidant, mentor, role model, healer, teacher, rule maker, boundary setter, cheer leader, supervisor, chauffer, ATM, nurturer?

The answer is “detective.”

Parent: I don’t understand.  Sometimes I have to find out who started a fight.  Isn’t that kind of being a detective?

Me: How many days, weeks, or years do you go back to determine when and who started it?  And if it turns out that you go by the current fight, and it was the two year old who started it, don’t you tell your six year old to be more tolerant because “the baby doesn’t know better but you should?”

You don’t need to know who started anything.  You need to help your children figure out how to stop it no matter how or by whom it got started.

Do you consider a child stealing food from his parents to be a criminal act?  Many parents have caught a child “stealing” food from a cabinet.  Chances are, many parents haven’t caught their children taking food without permission.  The child got away with it; the crime did pay.  Rarely is a child caught the first time he misbehaves.  Do not interrogate your young child in an attempt to unearth every past misstep. Even if you never “misbehave” without getting caught, or never misbehave at all [really?], be realistic with your child.  Be realistic with yourself, too.  Sometimes crime pays, and the price of trying to prevent it isn’t worth the stress on your relationship.

Work harder at catching your child succeeding than you work at seeing the failures.  Be vigilant to notice success and savor the nachas.


Rabbi Ackerman is the author of Confident Parents, Competent Children, in Four Seconds at a Time

Available at bookstores and on Amazon.

He can be reached at 718-344-6575