The prohibition against cursing a parent

The prohibition against cursing a parent:[1]

One who curses his father or mother [as an adult[2], transgresses a Biblical negative command[3] and] is liable for Sekila [i.e., death by stoning] if the cursing took place in the presence of witnesses and with prior warning [and using one of the seven Divine names, as will be explained]. [This applies whether the curse was verbalized in speech, or merely written down without verbalization, such as if one wrote “cursed be etc.”[4] It is questionable whether liability only applies if the father or mother was mentioned by name or simply being mentioned as one’s parent suffices for liability.[5]]

Is weighed by Scripture equal to the prohibition of cursing G-d:[6] The sages teach us that this command against cursing one’s parents is weighed by Scripture equal to the prohibition against cursing G-d. This is learned from the following similar words used in the verses. The verse states that a person who curses his father or mother is put to death and in another verse it states that one who curses G-d is liable for his sin. The reason for this is because there are three partners in the creation of man. 

After death:[7] The above prohibition applies even after the death of the parents. Thus, a child who curses his dead parent is still liable for death.[8]

Male and female:[9] The above prohibition applies both for a man or woman [i.e., a son or daughter] who curses [their parent]. [This applies for both a Tumtum and Androgynous.[10]]

Using one of the seven names of G-d:[11] The above liability for Sekila only applies if one curses the parent with one of the [seven[12]] designated names of G-d [that cannot be erased]. If, however, a nickname for G-d was used in the curse [such as Shakaiy, Tzevaos, Chanun and Rachum[13]], then the child is [not liable for stoning but rather is] only liable for transgressing a negative command like anyone else who curses any other Jew.[14] [Nonetheless, although the punishment of stoning is not given if one of the seven Divine names was not used, cursing a parent is most severe and is more severe than cursing a regular Jew. One who curses his parent in any which way is fit to be put in excommunication and is included in the scriptural curse of “Cursed it is thou who curses his father and mother.”][15]

If one’s parents are Reshaim:[16] [Even] if a person’s father and mother were complete Reshaim and transgressed sins, it still remains forbidden for the son to hit or curse his parent [even though the child is exempt from capital punishment[17]]. This prohibition applies even if the parent was liable for capital punishment and was in the process of being taken out to be killed. However, if one hit or cursed a parent in such a state [of being a Rasha[18] or of being taken out for capital punishment], then he is exempt from [the death penalty]. If, however, the parents performed Teshuvah, then the son is liable for the death penalty [for hitting or cursing them] even though the parents are in the process of being taken out to be killed.

Swearing in court:[19] If in litigation against their son, a father [or mother] has been found liable by the court to swear to the son regarding a statement they made, then the oath taken may not contain a curse, as this is considered as if the son is cursing his father. Rather, the oath taken shall not contain any curse.

Shtuki-One who does not know the identity of his father:[20] A person who is Halachically defined as a Shtuki, which is that he does not know the identity of his father even though he knows the identity of his mother, is [nonetheless] liable for hitting and cursing his mother. He is not liable for hitting and cursing his father. This applies even if the mother claims the man to be his father, nonetheless, she cannot cause him to get punished due to her word.

Son or daughter from a gentile woman:[21] A person’s son from a maidservant [i.e., Shifcha Kenanis] or from a Gentile woman [is not considered Jewish and hence] is not liable [for hitting or cursing] his father or mother.[22]

Converts:[23] If a woman converted when she was already pregnant, then the child born is not liable [for hitting or cursing] his father or mother.[24] [Certainly, one who converted is not liable for hitting or cursing his father or mother even if his father or mother also converted.] [Nevertheless] it remains forbidden for a convert to curse or hit or shame his father [or mother] in order so people do not say that his conversion caused him to leave a higher state of holiness to a lower state of holiness. This applies even if his parents are idol worshipers.[25]

Slave [Eved Kenani]:[26] A slave does not have any lineage, and hence his father is not considered like his father for any purpose. Accordingly, even if a slave was emancipated, he is not liable for cursing or hitting his father [or mother] and there is no prohibition involved in doing so any more than any other person.

Mechila of cursing:[27] A parent cannot give permission to his child to curse him.[28] Thus, if a father forgives his child after he curse him, it does not help to save him from capital punishment.[29]


[1] Michaber 241:1; Rambam Mamarim 5:1; 6:2 “One who curses his father or mother is liable for death by stoning, as is one who blasphemes G-d, and hence we see that Scripture has made them equal regarding the punishment.”; Mishneh Sanhedrin 53a; Pesakim Uteshuvos 241:1, 6; ; Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Mikalel Aviv Veimo

Cursing a grandparent: One who curses his grandfather, whether maternal or paternal, is considered like one who cursed any other Jew. [Rambam Mamarim 5:2 “One who curses his paternal or maternal grandfather is liable for transgressing a negative command like anyone else who curses any other Jew.”; Chinuch Kedoshim Mitzvah 260; Gilyon Maharsha 241:1]

Tikkun for a person who cursed his parents: See Ginzei Chaim Kuntrus Teshuvah mechaim 36; Shoel Vinishal 3:255

[2] Rambam Mamarim 5:1 “This liability for Sekila for cursing one’s parent only applies if the child who cursed his parent is a Gadol and has reached the age of punishment.”

[3] Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 318; Minyan Hamitzvos Hilchos Mamrim

[4] Sefer Admas Kodesh 2 Hashmatos Y.D. 8; Oseh Shalom p. 101; Chasam Sofer Y.D. 127; Shut Rav Akiva Eiger Kama 29

[5] See Torah Lishma 478 for a discussion on this matter

[6] Rambam ibid; Kiddushin 30b

[7] Michaber 241:1; Rambam Mamarim 5:1; Taz 241:1; Tur 241; Sanhedrin 85a

[8] The reason: As after death it is not possible to make a wound in the parent. Accordingly, this ruling does not contradict the fact that a child who wounds a parent who has been found liable for capital punishment is liable for death. [Taz ibid]

[9] Michaber ibid; Rambam Mamarim 5:1; Sanhedrin ibid

[10] Rambam Mamarim 5:1

[11] Michaber ibid; Rambam Mamarim 5:2; Mishneh Sanhedrin 66a; Shavuos 35a

[12] See Michaber 276:9 for a list of the seven divine names that may not be erased

[13] Shach 241:1

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that a child is held liable even if he uses the name Shakaiy or Tzevaos, being that they are one of the seven divine names of G-d and are not nicknames. [See Radbaz Mamarim 5:1; Rambam Avoda Zara 2:7; Aruch Laner Sanhedrin66a; Shevet Halevi 2:112-2; Pesakim Uteshuvos ibid footnote 1]

[14] See Michaber C.M. 27; Shach 241:2

[15] Tashbeitz 3:192

[16] Michaber 241:4

[17] Rambam Mamarim 6:10

[18] Rambam Mamarim 6:10

[19] Rama 241:6; Rambam Mamarim 5:15; See Taz 241:2; Teshuvos Hageonim 300

[20] Michaber 241:7; Tur 241; Rambam Mamrim 5:9

[21] Michaber 241:8; Rambam Mamrim 5:9; Mishneh Yevamos 22a

[22] The reason: as the child found in the womb of the maidservant or womb of a Gentile woman is similar to an animal found in the womb of an animal. [Taz 241:3]

[23] Michaber 241:8-9; Rambam Mamrim 5:9; Bava Basra 149a; See Beis Hillel 241; Yad Avraham 241; Zekan Aron 2 Y.D. 87; Yad Shaul 241:4; Shaareiy Deiah 241:9; Igros Haperi Megadim Igeres 3:20, brought in Hagahos Rav Akiva Eiger 241; Keli Chemda Yisro 7; Igros Moshe 2:130; Divrei Yatziv Y.D. 127

[24] Michaber 241:8

[25] Michaber 241:9; Rambam Mamrim 5:11; Yevamos 22a

[26] Michaber 241:9

[27] See Encyclopedia Talmudit ibid footnotes 765-770

[28] Sheilasos Shelita Samech based on Sanhedrin 84b; Orchos Chaim Dinei Kibud Av 2; Shut Harivash 220 in name of Raavad; Sefer Chassidim 570; 573-574; Leket Yosher 2:37; Bedek Habayis of Beis Yosef 334; Shiyurei Bracha 240:8 Pirush Daled; Turei Even Megillah 28a; Kesef Mishneh Talmud Torah 7:13; Shut Haranach Mayim Amukim 69; Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 212; Birkeiy Yosef 240:14

[29] See Sefer Chassidim 573; Nachal Kadmonim of Chida Pashas Shemos; Birkeiy Yosef 240:13; Encyclopedia Talmudit ibid p. 429 footnotes 774 and 779

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Leave A Comment?

You must be logged in to post a comment.