The law, as defined by the Talmud, ensures that it is virtually impossible for such a case to ever be prosecuted, and the Talmud includes the opinion that there never has been and never will be an actual case. Nonetheless, the concept of the ben sorer umoreh raises essential questions for parents who strive to build loving relationships with their children.
The conceptual basis of a ben sorer umoreh is “nidon al shem sofo” (he is judged based on his end), that is, his future actions. Commentaries struggle with the conflict between the premise of “nidon al shem sofo” and the principle that every individual has the ability to do teshuva, choosing new paths in life. Ironically, the contradiction between these two ideas is particularly sharp if we accept that the halacha of ben sorer umoreh will never be applied practically but exists in order to impart lessons to us. What message are we meant to derive from an area of halacha that seems to undermine the belief in free choice?
Rivka Kahan, “Judging the Rebellious Child”, The Jewish Week (28 August 2015), 30.