Speech-Honoring one’s parents through speech

Speech-Honoring one’s parents through speech:[1]

A. Speaking respectfully:[2]

Included in the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is to speak to them with respect. One is to speak with them in a soft and appeasing tone with true Derech Eretz, as if one is talking to the king. This in fact is the main intent of the command of honoring one’s parents as understood from the simple words of Scripture. It goes without saying that it is forbidden to scream at them.[3]

Speaking to one’s parents in the third person or in Lashon Rabim:[4] There is no need to speak to one’s parents in the third person or in a plural tense, as is commonly done in the Hebrew language when speaking to another person as a sign of respect[5], as the accepted custom is not to be particular in this when speaking to one’s parents.

B. Rejoicing them:[6]

It is a mitzvah for a child to rejoice his father and mother.

C. Not to cause them pain with one’s words:[7]

It is forbidden for one to speak in a way or with words that will cause pain to one’s parents, and one who pains his parents with his words is greatly punished.

D. Soothing their pain and appeasing their stress:[8]

Included in the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is to appease them if they are in a state of stress or pain. One should speak to them words of comfort and reassurance to help remove their pain from their hearts.

E. Relieving their boredom:[9]

It is a mitzvah for one to spend time speaking with one’s parents even of mundane matters in order to relieve their boredom, and simply spend time with them, if they are in need of it. This obligation applies even if the son will end up nullifying Torah study for this purpose.

F. Letting them speak first and not to interrupt:[10]

A child is not the speak before his parents if his parents desire to speak. Rather, he should first have them speak and then speak after them. [For example, if a question is asked to the general public which includes a father and son who both have an answer, the son is to allow his father to answer first. Likewise, when the father and son are chitchatting within a group, the son should allow his father to express himself first before jumping the conversation. Likewise, when one’s father or mother is speaking about something, such as on the Shabbos table, a child should not interrupt them until they are done even if they feel they have something relevant that they would like to also share. Rather they should let their parents finish their thoughts and only afterwards share whatever it is they have on their minds. This is unlike that which is accustomed today in some homes in which a parent only begins to say something and all of a sudden, every child has something to say and share and comment without letting the parent finish his sentence. Of course, when the parent desires the dialogue within his conversation and statement, then this is allowed.]

G. Not telling them painful words, or delivering to them painful news:[11]

Included in the mitzvah to honor one’s parents in a speech, is to abstain from telling them words that will cause them pain. Likewise, one should not share with them news that will cause them pain. This may apply even regarding news that is relevant to the parent himself.

Telling them of a terminal illness that they have: Based on the above, one should not share with his elderly or sick parents that they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness if this information will not help them in any way and on the contrary will simply cause them great pain. However, if there is some benefit for the parent to be aware of their illness, such as to take greater care of their health, then they are to be told. Practically, one should consult with the medical team of his parent and a rabbi or chaplain prior to making a decision on this matter. 

Telling one’s parents painful information about himself or his children: Based on the above, one should avoid telling his parents news and information of matters going on in his life that will cause them pain and stress, unless they are able to assist him, or need to know as part of their job of being a parental guardian.

H. Protesting someone who defames one’s parent:[12]

It is a mitzvah on one who hears a person defaming his parent to protest against him, and to defend his parents from the libel.[13] A child does not have the right to forgive his parents honor in these matters.[14] Nonetheless, if one knows that by protesting the defamation it’ll cause it to be spread even more, then it is permitted for him to remain quiet.[15]

I. Not to befriend those who speak against one’s parents:[16]

One is to distance himself from people who speak against his parents or belittle them, and he should therefore avoid speaking with them.

J. Speaking Lashon Hara of one’s parents:[17]

One who speaks Lashon Hara about his parents transgresses this prohibition against shaming his father or mother and doing so carries a scriptural curse as stated in chapter 7.

K. Contradicting their opinions, words, and statements:

It is forbidden to contradict one’s parents’ words due to the command to fear one’s parents. See chapter 4 Halacha 8 for the full details of this matter.


[1] See Pesakim Uteshuvos 240:17; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Kibud Av Vaeim Vol. 26 p. 381

[2] Sefer Chareidim Asei 12:4-1 “One is obligated to honor them with his speech to speak to them in a soft and gentle tone like one who is speaking to a king”; Meiri Kiddushin 31a; See Mechilta Yisro who learns the command of honoring one’s parents to initially be referring to honoring them in speech; Bamidbar Raba 14 that Naftali spoke with his father in a most appeasing and gentle tone; Igros Kodesh Rayatz 13:505 “Honoring one’s parents is dependent to a certain degree also on the form of speech and therefore when speaking with one’s parents it must be in a very gentle manner and with true Derech Eretz, even if one’s final response to them must be an emphatic no [for a request they make which one is not obligated to listen to]”;

[3] Meiri 32a

[4] Chasam Sofer in Toras Moshe Parshas Toldos in the name of his teacher Rav Nasan Adler that is only the Gentiles who come from Esav who are distanced from their parents who need to speak to them in the third person terminology, however Yaakov and the Jewish people who are close with their parents may speak to them directly; Aruch Hashulchan 242:38

[5] See Taz 242:14 that so should be spoken to one’s Rebbe

[6] Meiah Shearim p. 91; See Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Kibud Av Vaeim Vol. 26 p. 384

[7] Igeres Hateshuva of Rabbeinu Yona in end; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Kibud Av Vaeim Vol. 26 p. 385

[8] Sefer Chareidim Asei 4:1; Reishis Chochmah Perek Derech Eretz; Tochaches Chaim Parshas Toldos

[9] See Sefer Hayashar Vehatov p. 3; Orchos Rabbeinu 3:108

[10] See Semak Mitzvah 7; Sifsei Chachamim Vayikra 19:3; Sefer Cheshbonos Shel Mitzvah 33; Rashi Vayikra 10:19; Bereishis 24:50; Menoras Hamaor 4 p. 19; Yerushalmi Peiah 1:1 “Velo Midaber” and Mefarshim there [Pnei moshe; Ra’ah Poldah]; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Morah Av Vaeim Vol. 42 p. 584 footnotes 234-240

[11] Betzel Hachochmah 2:55, 7-8

[12] Pesakim Uteshuvos 240:24

[13] Sefer Hayirah of Rabbeinu Yona 197; Sefer Chassidim 72; See Orchos Chaim of Rosh 82

[14] Yam Shel Shlomo Bava Kama 8:50; Shut 101

[15] Sefer Hayirah ibid; See Minchas Elazar 4:13

[16] Birkeiy Yosef 334:16 in name of Mishpat Tzedek; Pesakim Uteshuvos 240:24 footnote 204

[17] Chofetz Chaim Pesicha Asei 10

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