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Extent of respect to our parents?


Toward what extent according to the Torah do we need to apply respect to our parents?

Unfortunately to the common scenario that people live with abusive relationships with their parents, how would a person cope with law of the Torah “respecting your parents” if they show none toward you, i.e, narcissism, physical/verbal abuse, etc.
Which above all comes a very crucial dilemma; according to the Torah, one is forbidden to respond to a parent with disrespect, nor intend to correct them within having a conversation, i.e, so they don’t feel defeated and potentially route insecurity within their parenting or without.
This brings the two choices that leave you with neither being good.

  1. If you tolerate you will potentially and most likely tear apart your reputation toward being seen as a sluggish and foolish person for being non responsive
  2. If you respond with either establishing good or bad points, one can god forbid
    Violate the basic laws of disrespect torward one’s parents.

Bh” I don’t speak from experience, and am speaking from a third person, and ask this question only out of curiosity. Because when it comes to the laws of one’s respect for their parents it seems to be very contradictory to me when it comes to abuse.



It is great to hear that you are asking this question only out of curiosity and not that you have to deal with such a situation.

Additionally, while answering you, please allow me to correct some of the assumptions that are part of the question.

Your question is in regard to the halacha of “lo yistor es divarov”, not to contradict a parent. This does not mean that a child cannot have a different opinion than his or her parent. One may have a different opinion, and it may even be verbalized, however it has to be done in a way that is not destroying their opinion, rather you are mentioning another way of looking at things. For example[1], if a parent says, “it is permitted to turn on a light on Shabbos with a shinui”, the child may say, “that isn’t true, it is assur”, because that stating clearly that the parent is wrong. Rather the child should say, interesting, because my teacher told us that in siman … it says that even though it is not biblically prohibited, however it is still forbidden m’drabonon”. This way the child said his opinion without clearly destroying what the parent said. The reason for this is not because “they may feel defeated or because it will route insecurity”, but simply because contradicting is disrespectful. It is nice to be cognizant of what we say ooout our parents feeling, but before that we have to learn to have simple respect.

  • Here are some other examples: A child may not say to his parent, “that’s not true”, even if he knows it isn’t true[2].
  • If one’s mother is telling a story, the child may not say, “that’s not what happened” or “better say it like this…”[3].
  • A son accused of doing something wrong should not say, that’s not true, rather, “I have what do defend[4] myself with…”

With regard to the child’s reputation, the Torah is not saying not to be responsive, rather respectful, and there is no need to fear that the respectful child will be looked down upon as sluggish or foolish. The opposite is true, a person who acts toward others with respect, without knocking them, will gain their deep inner respect in the long run, so that should not be a concern. Besides, as stated, one may state their opinion, however in a respectful manner.

Best wishes


[1] קידושין ל”ב . ושו”ע סע’ י”א. ע’ בן איש חי שנה ב’ פ’ שופטים אות ט”ו שם אביו ע”ה יכול לומר לו בצורת סיפור כגון “מעשה היה שא’ שעשה כך וכך ואמר לו החכם זה אסור”.  וע’ טור כאו”א אות תל”ג בשם שו”ת בצל החכמה ח”ג ס’ כ’ אות ז’ דכשם שמותר לשנות מפני השלום מותר לשנות מפני כאו”א.

[2] ר’ יונה בס’ היראה אות קפז “לא תסתור את דבריהם אם אמרו דבר אפילו ידעת כי אינו כן אל תאמר לא כן היה”.

[3] ילקוט יוסף פ”ה -ל”ה בשם ס’ המוסר לר”י כלץ.

[4] ס’ בן יכבד אב עמ’ 91.

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