The Torah says that if a son is a glutton and a drunkard who refuses to obey his parents, the parents bring him before a court, and if the court finds that the boy is bad, and will grow up to commit crimes, the boy is put to death.
How are we to understand this?
It sounds barbaric and immoral. Does the Torah want us to condone killing a wayward son?
The answer usually given, is that in all of Jewish history, this law was never invoked. No court ever killed a wayward son.
But that doesn’t really answer the question.
The real answer is this: God gave us this law to save children from their parents.
In most cultures throughout history, and in some cultures even today, if a child disrespects his parents, if he or she dishonors his family, the parents may kill him or her, or subject the child to some other violent punishment. Even in societies where murder is known to be wrong, they believe the “wayward son” is an exception.
It is in this context that the Torah tells us, if a son brings shame to his parents and dishonors the family, do not kill him, rather, bring him to a court.