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When Not To Obey - An Exception

When Not To Obey - An Exception


There is but one important qualification.

The fact that the precepts to honor and revere parents are commands of G‑d implies not only the wide extent and significance of these Mitzvos, but also their limitation. It is G‑d Who prescribes these Mitzvos, and it is G‑d's Torah which delineates their specific details.

These Mitzvos are, therefore, integral parts of Torah and subject thereto. They can never apply to incidents that would contravene the letter or spirit of the Torah:

"'Ye shall fear every man his mother and his father, and ye shall keep my Sabbaths; I am the L-rd your G‑d.' Scripture juxtaposes the observance of the Sabbath to the fear of one's father in order to teach you that 'although I admonish you regarding the fear of your father, yet if he bids you to desecrate the Sabbath do not listen to him [and the same is the case with any of the other commandments], for 'I am the L-rd your G‑d' - both you and your father are equally bound in duty to honor Me. Do not, therefore, obey him if it results in disobeying My words.'" [Rashi on Lev. 19:3; Yevamos 5b; Bava Metzia 32a].

If parents would order their child to transgress a positive or a negative command set forth in the Torah, or even a command which is of rabbinic origin, the child must disregard the order. Moreover, in the event that the father requests a personal service from his son while the son has a Mitzvah to perform, then: if the Mitzvah can be performed by others, let him delegate it to others and attend to the duty of honoring his father, for one commandment is not to be neglected in order to fulfill another. But if there are no others to perform the Mitzvah (and it cannot be postponed), he must perform it himself and disregard the honor due his father, because both he and his father are duty bound to fulfill the commandment. The latter would include especially the duty of studying Torah which supersedes that of honoring parents [Hilchos Mamrim 6:12f., Shulchan Aruch, ibid, 240:12f. and 25 (note the commentaries ad loc.)].

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Anonymous May 24, 2017

Does anyone have any strategies for dealing with this? I.e., my parents want me to transgress a mitzvah Reply

Simcha Bart for May 25, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

There is no "one size fits all" answer or strategy. Perhaps some of our readers would like to share what strategies they used in such a situation and I'll be happy to give you some advice privately via our Ask the Rabbi service. Reply

Anonymous toronto April 22, 2016

Respect There is a obligation to respect one's grandparents even more than parents. The wisdom and life they impart is invaluable.A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children. The source of all blessings is unconditional love and respect to them. Grandparents are coparceners on the land with grandchildren not with children in administration of the land, even if the inheritance is by sons. Reply

Bronya Shaffer January 20, 2013

The commandment to honour parents does not require one to submit to anything that is harmful to the child. Parents are meant to be nurturing and protective of their children; when parents behave otherwise - as in cases of abuse and molestation - the child has not obligation to the mitzvah of honouring parents. Reply

JC Lebanon, OH. August 4, 2012

Evil Parent Unfortunately, my father goes way beyond what was depicted here... He's a master manipulator, a liar, a thief, a cheater and a child molester (to my sister and I). I've forgiven him for what he's done to me in the past. I've tried to regain the lost years back by phone and visits, only for him to apathetically fling it in my face (just recently). Now, he lives more than 1000 miles away from me, but I still visit that state once or twice yearly, because it's where I grew up, and I still have many friends and family there. So I guess my question is: How do you honor an evil person such as this? Reply

Anonymous Chicago October 2, 2017
in response to JC:

My partner's father is a man like that. How does a person honor a criminal father, an evil man? For my partner, the only option was to become a police officer. The father is a (tried, convicted, admitted) criminal, a man who harmed children for his own pleasure; the son became an officer of the law, who specializes in child abuse cases. The "honor" isn't in fulfilling his father's wishes. The honor comes in making an attempt to undo the harm his father put into the world, in

Sometimes all we can do is create honor, hope, light...where there once was none.

For you, personally, I can't tell you what that might mean. But forming close ties with his other victims, protecting them and helping them heal, might be a good place to start.

I'll be keeping you in my heart. Reply

Betty Manoti Kampala, Uganda March 19, 2012

WHEN NOT TO OBEY There are incidents that can cause disobedience (Where a father or mother want to commit incest.
Parents forcing their children to get married to husbands or wives without the children’s consent, just because of selfish gains.
Helping their daughters perform abortions so that they continue with studies without hindrances’
Involving children in some other evil practices that are not pleasing to God.
Forcing children into religions without their consent.
These are some of the issues where I support the children to disobey if caught up under such circumstances. Reply

daryl manila, philippine January 18, 2012

what about personal dreams personal goal like being a pilot the parents don't want me to pursue being a pilot, I appreciate if there would be verse or in the tanak to support or hebrew term. thank you Reply

Anonymous Garden Grove, CA/USA March 25, 2011

Thank you Thank you for writing this article. It has helped me tremendously. I have struggled with this for a long time. Reply

Svetlana New York, NY August 8, 2008

Great article! Reply

Menachem Posner for June 26, 2008

RE: Praying Without a Minyan Praying with a Minyan, and praising G-d publicly, is a very important mitzvah and would not be superseded by the commandment to Honor our parents. Obviously, if your parent is in danger or distress, you should attend to them and their needs in a timely fashion. Reply

Anonymous June 8, 2008

What about davening with a minyan (rather than having to daven by one's self)? Reply

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