Cantaloupes & Gummy Rings by Michael Winner/8/24/2023 From the 17th of Tammuz until Tisha B'Av, we have the three weeks of mourning, where certain pleasures are limited, such as listening to music. The closer we get, the more stringent things become, such as bathing, drinking alcohol, eating meat.I'm convinced that it's not really three weeks of mourning, but rather six weeks of mourning. Really, from Tisha B'Av until Rosh Chodesh Elul (when the boys, at least, go back to school), when there are no camps or anything for them to do in this non-stop heatwave, is also included as a time of pain and mourning.So, why, do you ask, are we allowed to drink alcohol and listen to music? It's simple: It's a special allowance. Because without alcohol, meat, and music, all the parents will go crazy and eat their young.That's my theory at least."If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey them even after they discipline him…" (Devarim 21: 18).In this week's parsha, we tackle the issue of Ben Sorer U'Morer, a "defiant son." If this child meets the nearly-impossible criteria to be called a Ben Sorer U'Morer, he is to be put to death. Rashi, quoting the Gemara, explains that it's better that he should die with merit than to die with sin.Before this Rashi, we would have thought that a Ben Sorer U'Morer committed tons of sin and is practically an unrepentant sinner. Yet, from Rashi's comment, "he should die with merit," we see that at that time, the son isn't the evil person that we would have thought. He did not YET commit all the serious crimes we would have thought he did. Yes, in the end, if he were to continue on his path, he will, but at this point in his life, he has not.So, why are we killing him? Why are we so convinced that he will grow up as an unrepentant sinner?When looking at some of the requirements to be called a Ben Sorer U'Morer, we see that they are based on "living in the moment," doing what he wants and going after one's base desires. He steals meat and drink, he keeps company with wicked people, he refuses to listen to his parents, etc. We would have expected somebody who kills little furry animals for fun, somebody who tortures others, etc., but here we have somebody who's simply living life according to his whims.The life he is chasing is not that of a criminal, but that of a person who simply wants to chase after life's pleasures without restraint. We're not worried about his harming others, we're worried about his harming himself."Back in the day…," like before 50-70 years ago or so, life for most of the world was not like today. It was one of survival and making sure you have food on your plate. Now? Most people don't have to worry about that. They have what they need to survive. They simply need something fun to do with their free time.And what affects the world, affects the Jewish nation.This past Shabbos we had a cantaloupe at the table for dessert. Needless to say, it was a very good one. Juicy and sweet. Then, one of my children produced a small bag of gummy rings to share with everybody. Of course, all the kids took, ate their gummy ring, and continued with the cantaloupe. To nobody's surprise, but their own, the cantaloupe didn't taste sweet at all!This is what happens spiritually as well. We have mitzvos and we have Torah. It is the nature of both to be sweet. And for those who know others on higher spiritual levels, you can SEE that they are meant to be sweet. Yet, for most of us, they are not. They are bitter and difficult "to chew." Why is that? Because there are other sweet things out there, covered with sugar, that we chase after. And like the Ben Sorer U'Morer, we're not discussing things that are forbidden. We are discussing things that we are allowed to have. Yet, if we misuse those things, or our lives are driven by those things, we shouldn't be surprised that things that are naturally sweet, no longer taste sweet. The issue isn't with the cantaloupe, it's with the gummy rings.We have the next month-and-a-half to try out a new spiritual diet. To try to knock off, or at least limit, those sugar-coated sweets in our life that we don't really need. Hopefully, our spiritual taste buds will return to normal, and we will be able to taste the natural sweetness of life with Hashem.With that, I wish you all a wonderful Shabbos!