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The Parameters of Honoring Ones Parents – 2

Once R’ Yishmoel’s mother (Yerushalmi, Kiddushin 1:7) approached the Rabbis with the complaint that her son does not fully fulfill the mitzvah of kibbud eim. Of course the Rabbis were shocked and when she was asked to explain, she gave the following account. When R’ Yishmoel would return from the yeshiva, it was her custom to wash his feet and then drink the wash water as an expression of her love for him and the Torah. Now he refuses to allow her to wash his feet. In reply to this new situation, the Rabbis turned to R’ Yishmoel and said that since this is her will, it is her honor and R’ Yishmoel should yield to his mother’s wish. This ruling may perhaps be seen as a source for theChavotYair. Namely the will of a parent, even though accruing no direct benefit to himself, the son’s heeding his parent is defined as the parent’s honor. It may be argued that R’ Yishmoel’s mother while drinking the foul water was fulfilling her private need of expresing her love of the Torah and her son. Hence this incident cannot serve as a source for theChavotYair’s position.

Applying the Chavot Yair’s thinking to our case of the young man desiring to donate a portion of his lung, since there is no direct mitzvah obligating him to make the donation, even to save his friend’s life (albiet this is a praisworthy action), the young man needs to heed his parents, even if they would suffer no pain if he volunteers.

The Maharik (166:3) turns his attention to a young man who desires to marry his soul mate but his father opposes the match. Is the son compelled to abandon the shidduch because of kibud av? The Maharik opines that the son is indeed not duty-bound to yield to his father. He proposes the following three reasons.

  1. The Gemara in Kiddushin (32a) concludes that the expenses incurred for fulfilling kibud av come from the father, i.e., the father’s needs are paid for by the father and not the son. The son however must invest the effort to assure that his father’s needs are satisfactorily met.[1] Developing this source, the Maharik explains that giving up one’s soul mate will cause personal pain and anguish which can be considered a personal sacrifice equivalent to money. Hence the son is not required to heed his father’s demand.[2]
  2. Additionally the Maharik is confident that listening to his father and foregoing the shudduch is a transgression of the Torah. Our Rabbis have prohibited (Kiddushin 41a) marrying a woman without having had seen her first and finding grace in his eyes. Certainly marying a woman of his choice will create love and harmony and this is considered a mitzvah. The TeshuvotHarash(15:5) writes about a case in which one’s father holds a grudge against another Jew and has not yet forgiven him for his deed. If he requests that his son not speak to him, the son is prohibited to hearken to him for it is forbidden to hate another Jew.   Our case of the prospective marriage is similar for a dimension of transgression is involved by marrying a woman not of his choosing.[3]
  1. The mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim becomes relevant only when the father gains benefit as a direct outcome of his request.[4] Hence regarding the father’s request that his son refrain from marrying the woman of his choice, the fathers accrues no direct benefit. Consequently his request is subsumed under the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim. Honor comprises feeding, offering drink, assisting in dressing, helping him to come and go. Fear includes neither sitting in his place nor contradicting his statements (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 240). All of these represent examples that are directly relevant to the father’s benefit. Any other examples that are not benefit relevant do not trigger a mitzvah transgression. Following up on this line of reasoning, just as a son is commanded to feed his father, he is similarly commanded to calm him in time of distress. If by marrying this woman, his father will endure objective anguish or pain, then just as the son is obligated to feed his father, he is obligated to calm him and not cause him pain and anguish. [5]

The Maharik thus argues with the Chavot Yair’s position concerning the lung donation. According to the Chavot Yair, even if the parents derive no proximate benefit, their son must bow to their wishes.

Regarding this case, must the son obey his parents and refrain from donating a portion of his lung in order to save his friend?  This author believes that since the parents will suffer pain and agitation if their son donates the lung portion, this can be considered a predisposing need (i.e., calming them) and further since there is no halachic requirement to volunteer the lung segment, consequently he would be obligated to listen to them. Only if by hearkening to them would it lead to a transgression, would the son have the prerogative of denying their request.

We now present two additional cases regarding the parameters of kibbud av v’eim

An American MD made Aliya and decided to volunteer in theWest Bank.  At the time of his query to this author considerable unrest was prevalent there. The physician’s mother expressed open fear if her son worked there. Is he required to hearken to her?

The Terumat Hadeshen (mentioned in the previous Bulletin concerning a student who wished to travel abroad to study Torah and this would cause his father fear and agitation) teaches that only in the case where a positive mitzvah is involved (studying Torah) can the student refuse his father’s demand that he remain at home. In the case at hand, there is no positive obligation for the son to practice medicine in the West Bank. He can easily fulfill his spiritual obligation of healing by choosing to practice in any Israeli city. This may be seen as similar to the case in the previous Bulletin in which the Chavot Yair explained that albeit praiseworthy for the talmid chacham to live in the son’s home, the son must nonetheless turn down the rental. In this case the physician must assure that his mother remains calm and not work in the West Bank.[6]

The final case concerns the negative commandment of not causing embarrassment to one’s parents.

The Netziv in his Meishiv Davar (Vol. 2:50) discusses scenarios in which the son’s marrying his soul mate will cause embarrassment to his parents. He cites the Maharik mentioned above that kibbud av only applies when the father obtains direct benefit from his request. (Employing this logic, says the Netziv) if the father would accrue benefit from his son’s marrying into a prominent family and thereby gain public stature, and requests the son to marry their daughter, he would be obligated to marry her (if this would not contradict any mitzvah). Even more so, the son would need to comply with his father’s demand not to marry a specific woman if this would thereby cause him embarrassment.  For the verse (Devorim 26:16) states “Cursed is he who causes his father and mother embarrassment.” Moreover, even if the father is willing to live with the indignity and permit the marriage, this would be of no avail as although a father may lay aside his honor, he may not, his shame (see Bedek Habayit Yoreh De’ah 334).

(Continues the Meishiv Davar) that the Maharik reasons that since there is a mitzvah to marry one’s soul mate, this represents another basis to refuse complying with the father’s demand. Nonetheless concludes the Meishiv Davar, all of this reasoning is sufficient to compromise the obligation to honor and fear one’s parents. (The mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim appears in the first five of the Ten Commandments. The Gemara reveals to us [Kiddushin 30a] that the first five commandments speak to the relationship between man and G-d. Hence, says the Gemara, the honoring of one’s parents will lead to the honoring of G-d [our Creator]. Consequently when kibbud av clashes with another mitzvah, it is thus not incumbent upon the son to obey his father, for this does not lead to honoring G-d. )

Further the mitzvah of fearing ones parents appears in parshat Kedoshim. There the verse (Vayikra 19:3) instructs: “Fear thy mother and father and keep Shabbat for I am your G-d.”  Hence with respect to fear, fear of Hashem also has priority over his father’s desires (you and your father are obligated to fear and respect Me [see Yevamot 6a]. The verse that speaks of arur (cursed) [Devarim 27:6] has no such reference [i.e., that it is compromised when clashing with another mitzvah]).

When the situation is one in which the son’s desires result in disgrace to his parents, there is no clear source that the son’s carrying out a specific mitzvah will override his parents contrary demands. Therefore to execute an act that would cause (objective y.w.) embarrassment and disgrace is always prohibited, even when clashing with another  mitzvah.  Regarding the case of the marriage, the son would need to forfeit marrying his soul mate.

In conclusion, when by marrying or performing any other act that will result in parental disgrace then no justification exists for not acting in accordance with the parent’s will. Even if this dictate is not only expressed, the child’s will, must bend in order to prevent disgrace or embarrassment to his parents.[7]

 


[1]  Concerning a case in which the father has inadequate funds, see Shulachan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah (240) which explains the children’s obligations.

[2] This ruling would seem to apply only if marrying the girl would not cause the father anguish. See the Ran, Kiddushin (in theRif, page 19) who declares that one must spend all of his money in order to prevent pain and suffering to his father. Cf. Kesef Mishne Laws of Mamrim 6:7.

[3] See Eruvin 47a which teaches that one may travel out of EretzIsrael to learn Torah or to marry. R’ Yehuda opines that this holds true only if one cannot study in EretzIsrael, but if he can, then he may not leave.  R’ Yossi declares that even if he can find a Rav in EretzIsrael with whom to study, it is permitted to leave for one does not succeed in his studies from every teacher. See Tosafot Bechorot (29a) who compares leaving EretzIsrael on order to study or to marry with one who may sell a Torah scroll (Gemara Megilla 27a) in order to study Torah or to marry: both are noble mitzvot. Tosafot say that is permitted to leave EretzIsrael to marry even if one can find a wife in EretzIsrael. We thus recognize that finding a wife of one’s choice is considered a mitzvah. Tosafot there also enlighten us that even though the issue of studying Torah abroad, when one can indeed study in Eretz Israel, impacts directly on a dispute between R’ Yehuda and R’ Yossi. Is it permitted to transgress a minor sin and leave Eretz Yisroel, regarding marrying the woman of one’s choice? Everyone agrees that one may leave Eretz Yisroel even though one can find a wife there. All agree that finding a soul mate is clearly a condition for the fulfillment of a harmonious like where the Shechina resides. This reason would apply even though the father opposes the marriage and the outcome of the son’s noncompliance will cause the father pain, the son need not obey. One does not transgress a mitzvah even if this results in anguish to the parents.

[4] As per the Tosafot to Kiddushin (32a) above, the father secures no direct benefit from his son’s desisting from searching for his lost article. Given that coincidentally the father wishes to eat as his motive for forbidding his son’s search, nevertheless, in this situation the father gains no direct benefit.

[5] Tosafot to Kiddushin (32a) explains that according to the opinion that a son must spend his own money to honor his father, then if the father casts the son’s wallet into the sea and this subsequently calms him,  this then is considered a direct benefit to the father.

[6] If however this would br considereda time of war,the halacha woulds be different.. Also, he can attempt to persuade them otherwise.

 

[7] The Yalkut Shimoni (752) to parshat Korach relates the incident that when Moshe set off to appease Datan,  Aviram and Korach, the children of Korach were placed into a quandary. When Moshe approached them, the children of Korach were sitting with their father.  If they stood in honor of Moshe (their father’s nemesis), this would cause their father great embarrassment.

“This they were forbidden to do for we have previously been commanded regarding honoring one’s father and mother . If we do not stand, it is already written (Vayikra  30:5)  to rise before one’s elders.  They decided it better to stand before Moshe our teacher in spite of its causing their father humiliation. At that moment they began contemplating doing teshuva (repentance) and were thus saved the punishment of their father (Bamidbar 24:11).”

This author would like to implement the logic of the above Meishiv Davar.  If performing a mitzvah clashes with the duty of honoring and fearing one’s parents, then the mitzvah gains priority. In the incident with Korach’s children, if avoiding the embarrassment of their father is based on kibud av (at that point in time), they were indeed entitled to embarrass their father. The Biblical verse concerning parental embarrassment which applies even if it causes a transgression of another mitzvah was given only after the Jews crossed the Jordanand traveled to Mt.Grizimand Mt.  Eival.  Korach’s episode however occurred while the Children of Israel were yet in the Desert. Hence his children reasoned that the only mitzvah they currently had was one that concerned honoring one’s parents.  The directive given at Mt.Grizimregarding embarrassment that would have disallowed them to stand before Moshe was not yet decreed. Therefore they correctly reasoned that they were obligated to stand before Moshe. This would explain why regarding the mitzvah of honoring a mother or father they employed the phrase “We have already been commanded” (to exclude the prohibition of not embarrassing  one’s father that they had not yet been commanded). While when mentioning rising before your elders they said “it is written” (not excluding any other verse).

[1]  Concerning a case in which the father has inadequate funds, see Shulachan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah (240) which explains the children’s obligations.

[1] This ruling would seem to apply only if marrying the girl would not cause the father anguish. See the Ran, Kiddushin (in theRif, page 19) who declares that one must spend all of his money in order to prevent pain and suffering to his father. Cf. Kesef Mishne Laws of Mamrim 6:7.

[1] See Eruvin 47a which teaches that one may travel out of EretzIsraelto learn Torah or to marry. R’ Yehuda opines that this holds true only if one cannot study in EretzIsrael, but if he can, then he may not leave.  R’ Yossi declares that even if he can find a Rav in EretzIsraelwith whom to study, it is permitted to leave for one does not succeed in his studies from every teacher. See Tosafot Bechorot (29a) who compares leaving EretzIsraelon order to study or to marry with one who may sell a Torah scroll (Gemara Megilla 27a) in order to study Torah or to marry: both are noble mitzvot. Tosafot say that is permitted to leave EretzIsraelto marry even if one can find a wife in EretzIsrael. We thus recognize that finding a wife of one’s choice is considered a mitzvah. Tosafot there also enlighten us that even though the issue of studying Torah abroad, when one can indeed study in Eretz Israel, impacts directly on a dispute between R’ Yehuda and R’ Yossi. Is it permitted to transgress a minor sin and leave Eretz Yisroel, regarding marrying the woman of one’s choice? Everyone agrees that one may leave Eretz Yisroel even though one can find a wife there. All agree that finding a soul mate is clearly a condition for the fulfillment of a harmonious like where the Shechina resides. This reason would apply even though the father opposes the marriage and the outcome of the son’s noncompliance will cause the father pain, the son need not obey. One does not transgress a mitzvah even if this results in anguish to the parents.

[1] As per the Tosafot to Kiddushin (32a) above, the father secures no direct benefit from his son’s desisting from searching for his lost article. Given that coincidentally the father wishes to eat as his motive for forbidding his son’s search, nevertheless, in this situation the father gains no direct benefit.

[1] Tosafot to Kiddushin (32a) explains that according to the opinion that a son must spend his own money to honor his father, then if the father casts the son’s wallet into the sea and this subsequently calms him,  this then is considered a direct benefit to the father.

[1] If however this would br considereda time of war,the halacha woulds be different.. Also, he can attempt to persuade them otherwise.

 

[1] The Yalkut Shimoni (752) to parshat Korach relates the incident that when Moshe set off to appease Datan,  Aviram and Korach, the children of Korach were placed into a quandary. When Moshe approached them, the children of Korach were sitting with their father.  If they stood in honor of Moshe (their father’s nemesis), this would cause their father great embarrassment.

“This they were forbidden to do for we have previously been commanded regarding honoring one’s father and mother . If we do not stand, it is already written (Vayikra  30:5)  to rise before one’s elders.  They decided it better to stand before Moshe our teacher in spite of its causing their father humiliation. At that moment they began contemplating doing teshuva (repentance) and were thus saved the punishment of their father (Bamidbar 24:11).”

This author would like to implement the logic of the above Meishiv Davar.  If performing a mitzvah clashes with the duty of honoring and fearing one’s parents, then the mitzvah gains priority. In the incident with Korach’s children, if avoiding the embarrassment of their father is based on kibud av (at that point in time), they were indeed entitled to embarrass their father. The Biblical verse concerning parental embarrassment which applies even if it causes a transgression of another mitzvah was given only after the Jews crossed the Jordanand traveled to Mt.Grizimand Mt.  Eival.  Korach’s episode however occurred while the Children of Israel were yet in the Desert. Hence his children reasoned that the only mitzvah they currently had was one that concerned honoring one’s parents.  The directive given at Mt.Grizimregarding embarrassment that would have disallowed them to stand before Moshe was not yet decreed. Therefore they correctly reasoned that they were obligated to stand before Moshe. This would explain why regarding the mitzvah of honoring a mother or father they employed the phrase “We have already been commanded” (to exclude the prohibition of not embarrassing  one’s father that they had not yet been commanded). While when mentioning rising before your elders they said “it is written” (not excluding any other verse).

 

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