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Examples Of “Model Children”

Examples Of “Model Children”

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Above we cited the legal definitions and explained what it means to honor and revere parents. The Talmud offers some enlightening illustrations taken from actual life to teach the extent of these Mitzvos.

Interestingly enough, the oft-cited model-son is a prominent heathen by the name of Dama, the sone of Netina. Of him it is told how he preferred to forfeit a great fortune rather than wake his father.

The same Dama once wore a gold-embroidered silken cloak and was sitting among his noble peers when his mother came, tore his robe off him, struck him on the head, and spat on his face, yet he did not shame her [Kidushin 31a.].

Of Rabbi Tarfon it is related that his mother once walked in her garden and her sandal split so that she would have to walk home barefoot. Thereupon Rabbi Tarfon kept stretching his hands under her feet and she walked over them all the way. One day he was ill and his colleagues came to visit him. His mother then said to them: "Pray for my son Rabbi Tarfon, for he honors me more than is my due."

"What has he done to you?" they asked. She told them what happened. They replied:

"If he had done to you thousands times more, he would not have done half of the honor enjoined in the Torah!" [Yerushalmi, ibid. See also Kidushin 31b.].

Noting the profound significance and the wide scope of this Mitzvah it is easily understood why it is referred to as the most difficult, the "weightiest of the weighty commandments." This severity is offset only by the corresponding Divine blessings in reward for its observance, which man reaps in this world as well as in the world to come.

That is why Rabbi Zeeyra, who was left an orphan in his infancy, at first was grieved and said: "Oh that I had father and mother so that I could honor them and inherit Paradise!" But when he heard stories as that of Rabbi Tarfon, he exclaimed: "Blessed be the Merciful that I have no father and mother, for I could not have acted thus!" [Ibid.].

Rabbi Zeeyra's remark does not mean that the obligations to honor and revere parents cease with their death. These Mitzvos remain in force even then, though the duties may be different.

Even after their death one must always express reverence when mentioning parents. The recital of Kaddish, memorial prayers [Yizkor], etc. are also acts of filial piety. Moreover, alongside these occasional practices there is one way of constantly observing these Mitzvos, after the passing of the parents no less than during their lifetime, as follows.

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