Chapter 6: Honoring and fearing one’s parents
Halacha 1: Its greatness
- Great positive command: Honoring and fearing one’s father and mother is a great positive command in the Torah.
- Weighed equal to the Mitzvah to honor and fear God: This command to honor and fear one’s parents is weighed by Scripture equal to the Mitzvah to honor and fear God, as both verses commanding one to honor and fear his father and mother contains connecting verses which command one to honor and fear God. Just as God commanded one to honor and fear His great name so too he commanded us to honor and fear our parents.
- Punishment for cursing parents: One who curses his father or mother is liable for death by stoning, as is one who blasphemes God, and hence we see that Scripture has made them equal regarding the punishment.
- Equal obligations towards father and mother: The Torah preceded the father to the mother regarding the command of respect and preceded the mother to the father regarding the command to fear in order to teach us that they’re both to be equally respected and feared.
Halacha 3: Detailed obligations of love and fear
- What is included within the command to fear one’s parents?
- Not to stand in one’s parents designated area for standing.
- Not to sit in one’s parents designated area for sitting.
- Not to contradict the words of one’s parents.
- One may not arbitrate like his parents’ opinion.
- Calling their name: One may not call one’s parent [father or mother ] by their name whether they are alive or dead. Rather one is to call them by saying “Aba Mori/My father my teacher.” If there is a person who shares the same name as one’s parent or teacher, then one is to change their name. However, in my opinion, this only applies if one’s fathers name is a very rare name which people are not accustomed to. However, by a common name such as Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, Moshe, and the like in all languages and times, it is permitted to call another person by this name when not in the presence of the parent who has the same name.
- What is included within the command to honor one’s parents?
- One is to feed his parents food,
- Give them to drink
- Dress them
- Who pays? If the parents cannot afford to support themselves, then if the child can afford it, then he is forced to support them from his own money according to his affordability.
- Help them enter and leave [i.e. walk].
- One is to perform all other forms of service for his parents, as a servant serves his master.
- One is obligated to stand for his father as he would do for his teacher.
- Who stands for whom if the father is the Torah student of the son: In the event that one’s father is a student of his son in his Torah learning, then the father is not to stand on behalf of his son although his son is to stand on behalf of his father even though he is his student.
- Honoring during business and chore performance: One is obligated to respect his parents during his business dealings and performance of chores. Hence, if one is in need of a certain matter from another person, then he should request from them to do it out of respect for his father.
- All in all, a person should always make it seem in his words that he worries of the honor of his father and fear him.
Halacha 5: Honoring one’s parents after their death
- One is obligated to honor his father and mother even after their passing.
- Saying Hakam: Upon mentioning them within the 12 months, such as one who says “My father taught me such and such”, he is to say “My father my teacher, Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo [i.e. Hakam/הכ”ם].”
- Saying Zichrono Livracha: After the 12 months one is to say “Zichorno Lichayeh Olam Haba.”
Halacha 6: Women-Is a woman obligated to honor her father and mother?
- Both men and women are equally obligated to honor and fear [their father and mother].
- A married woman: However a man has the capability of doing so while a [married] woman does not have the capability of doing so being that she is subjugated to others [i.e. her husband].
- A divorcee or widow: Therefore, if she becomes divorced or widowed then she becomes obligated in the command just like a man.
Halacha 7: Accepting abuse from parent with silence
- Throwing away his money: One’s honor of his father and mother must extend to the point that even if they were to take his wallet of gold from his possession and throw it in front of him to the sea, nonetheless, he should restrain himself from embarrassing them, and he should not express any pain while in their presence, and he should not get angry at them, and is rather to accept the decree of Scripture, and remain silent.
- Tearing child’s clothing and shaming him in public: One’s fear of his parents must extend to the point that even if he was wearing elegant clothing and sitting at the head of the congregation, and his father or mother came and tore his clothing, and hit him over the head, and spat at him, nonetheless, he may not [retaliate and] shame them in return, and is rather to remain quiet and fear the king of all kings which commanded him to do so as certainly if a king of flesh and blood decreed upon him something even worse than this he would not be able to protest, and hence even more so by Hashem the creator of the world.
Halacha 8: Not to overburden one’s child with demands
- It is forbidden for a parent to overburden his children with demands and to be overparticular with their respect towards him, in order so he does not cause them to stumble.
- Forgiving one’s honor: Rather, a parent should forgive [his honor] and ignore [their disrespect], as a father who forgives his honor, his honor is forgiven.
Halacha 9: Hitting one’s children
- One who hits his adult children would be placed in excommunication as he transgresses the prohibition of “Lifnei Iver Lo Sitein Michshol.”
Halacha 10: Shoteh-Parent is mentally insane
- If a person’s father or mother has lost their mind, the child needs to try to treat them and act with them in accordance to their mental capability, until [G-d] has mercy on them.
- If, however, it is not possible for the child to deal with his parent being that the parent has become unbearably insane, then he may go and leave them be and instruct others to properly deal with them.
Halacha 11: Mamzer, Rasha, Reprimanding for sin
- Is a Mamzer obligated to honor her father and mother? A Mamzer is obligated to honor and fear his father even though the child is exempt from capital punishment for hitting and cursing them prior to them doing Teshuvah.
- Must one honor a parent who is a Rasha: One is obligated to honor and fear his father even if his father is a Rasha and big Baal Aveiros.
- Reprimanding a parent for transgressing Jewish law: One who witnesses his father transgressing words of the Torah should not explicitly tell him, “You have transgressed the words of the Torah.” Rather, one is to say, “Father, is it not written in the Torah such and such?” making it as if one is asking the parent a question, rather than warning him [and accusing him of transgression].
Halacha 12: Parent instructs a child to transgress Torah
- If one’s father instructed him to transgress words of Torah, he may not listen to him as everyone is obligated in the honor of God.
- This applies whether it is a positive or negative command.
- This applies even by rabbinical command.
Halacha 13: Kibud Av Vaeim versus other Mitzvos-Which receives precedence
- If one’s father asks him to bring him a cup of water, and at the same time there is a mitzvah that he is able to fulfill, then if it is possible for him to delegate this Mitzvah to someone else to perform, then he should delegate it and in the meantime perform the mitzvah of honoring his parent.
- If, however, there is no one else available to perform the mitzvah in his stead, then he should perform the mitzvah and put aside the mitzvah to honor his father [and not perform the service for his father] as he and his father are both obligated in the honor of God.
- Kibud Av Vaeim versus Talmud Torah: The mitzvah of Torah learning is greater than the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother.
Halacha 14: Father versus Mother-Who receives precedence
- If one’s father instructed him to give him water to drink, and also his mother instructed him to bring her water to drink, then he is to leave his mother’s request and deal with the honor of his father as one’s mother is also obligated in honoring his father which is her husband.
Halacha 15: Honoring relatives other than parents
- Stepmother: A person is obligated to honor his father’s wife even though she is not his mother [i.e. stepmother] so long as one’s father is alive, as this is included in the command to honor ones father.
- Stepfather: One is obligated to honor his mother’s husband [i.e. stepfather] so long as one’s mother is still alive.
- After death of parent: After the passing of one’s mother one is no longer obligated to honor his stepfather.
- Honoring one’s older brother: A person is Rabbinically obligated in the honor of his older brother just like the honor of his father.