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Some Basic Laws Of “Kibbud Av Va-Em”

Some Basic Laws Of “Kibbud Av Va-Em”


[In addition to the various laws cited in the previous chapters.]

  1. One must be extremely careful to honor and revere his father and mother, for the Torah compares it to the honor and reverence of G‑d.
  2. Both man and woman are enjoined to honor and revere parents. However, a married woman is not in a position to supply her parents with their needs inasmuch as she depends on others, and she is therefore exempt thereof. But she is obligated to do for her parents all she can as long as her husband does not object.
  3. One must honor and respect his step-mother during his father's lifetime and his step-father during his mother's lifetime. It is proper that one honor and respect them even after the death of one's own parents.
  4. One must honor and respect his father-in-law and his mother-in-law (as we find that King David honored King Saul, who was his father- in-law, by calling him "my father"; see I Samuel 24:12). Likewise one must honor and respect grandparents. Also implied in this Mitzvah is that one must honor his elder brother and sister.
  5. If the father or mother is asleep and the key to one's store lies under their pillow, one must not waken them even if he should loose much profit thereby. However, if the father would benefit by being awakened, and if the son should fail to awake him he will grieve over the loss of the profit, it is the son's duty to arouse him since that will make the father happy. It is also the duty of children to arouse their father for the performance of any religious duty (which might otherwise be neglected) as all are equally bound to honor the Almighty.
  6. If the mind of his father or mother is affected, one should make every effort to indulge the vagaries of the stricken parent, until G‑d will have mercy on the affected. But if the condition of the parent has grown worse and the son is no longer able to endure the strain, he may leave his father or mother provided he delegates others to give the parent proper care.
  7. When a child sees his parent violate the Torah he must not say to him "You have violated a command of the Torah"; he should rather say: "Father, is it not written in the Torah thus and thus?", speaking to him as though he were consulting him instead of admonishing him, so that the parent may correct himself without being put to shame.
  8. The Torah is rigorous not only with respect to him who strikes or curses his parents but also with him who puts them to shame. For he who treats them with contempt, even by using harsh words against them, even by a discourteous gesture, is cursed by G‑d, as it is said: "Cursed be he that dishonors his father or his mother." (Deut 27:16)
  9. One must honor his parents even after their death (see supra, pp. 21ff.). When mentioning parents after their demise one should add: "May his (or her) memory be a blessing."
  10. Although children are commanded to go to the aforementioned lengths in their relationship to their parents, the parent is forbidden to impose too heavy a yoke upon them, to be too exacting with them in matters pertaining to his honor, lest he cause them to stumble. He should forgive them and shut his eyes, for a parent has the right to forego the honor due him.
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Anonymous USA April 19, 2013

Answer to Wendy Jay of Australia Dearest Wendy, I too went through a similar predicament, and I sought the counsel of a Chabad Rabbi. The thing that’s causing you sorrow and torment is that you’re equating your mom’s speech with “your mom”. This is understandable, since that’s always been the case; however, with dementia, although your mom’s essence - her very soul - is still intact; you don’t have access to it. In a normally functioning system, the soul, the heart and the brain, communicate with one another. In the case of your mom, the conduit for access to her soul (the aspect of your mom that makes her “your mom”) is broken. When the brain is damaged, it cannot effectively communicate with the soul. Therefore, your mom’s speech is simply reflective of a damaged organ and nothing else. Her speech is not reflective of her soul and has nothing to do with her. If the normal lines of communication between the heart, the soul and the brain were restored, she would take back every word. May Hashem heal you. Reply

Wendy Jay Sydney.Australia April 6, 2013

Kibudd Av Va'Em How do you honor a parent who is suffering from Alzheimers? I feel so torn apart I don't know how to deal with it anymore...I've tried to love & honor my parents all my life & in my own aging have understood many things I could not see before..My Father is now at peace & i hope in paradise. I wish G-d would take this burden from me....but cannot stop loving my Mother & trying to keep to the commandment to honor !! but is so hard to keep to ...the harsh words coming from her still hurt me to my very soul....she is a gentile ...myself still am torn in two ways...i would appreciate any words of advise people, please help me if you can. Reply

Rabbi Zalman Nelson, LMSW safed, israel August 13, 2012

To: Honoring One's Parents I'm hoping that your comments are theoretical. Either way, the mitzvah of honoring parents is actually a two-way street. Not only is the child obligated to honor the parent in various ways including actions and speech, but it also includes the parents acting in a way the encourages and enables the child to act honoring to them. In fact, a parent who acts in the way you describe, let alone the awful, G-d forbid, stories of molestation and abuse, is making it nearly impossible to for the child to honor them, and likely that they are of the hook.

At the same time, a child who has wronged their parents as well as a parent who wronged their child always has the ability to do teshuva. Meaning, they consider what they have and haven't done, and truly regret it. And out of that bitterness they resolve to make the future different starting with the immediate present. And they not only ask forgiveness but even demonstrate the truth of their feelings in their actions. Reply

Anonymous Studio City, CA August 8, 2012

Honoring one's parents Someone very close to me once asked me this question. How does a Jew honor his mother & father if they constantly ignore, neglect & violate the Torah? How does a Jew honor his parents, if they have kept their entire life a secret from their child? If one's parents are prone to a life of vanity, love of materialism, flattery, miserliness, loshon hara, & falsehood? How does a Jew honor one's parents if they have willingly neglected their child's spiritual needs, emotional needs, and financial needs, specially when it relates to Torah & Mitzvot? And my last question is, how does a Jew whom G-d Forbid may have shamed & or degraded one's parents for all the sins written above, whether knowingly or unknowingly, willingly or unwillingly, come to ''repent'' from this transgression & be Granted full atonement by G-d for having shamed one's parents? Reply

Catherine NY, NY February 10, 2012

thank you It is a very difficult task to take when your mother has been very self involved to my detriment all through her life. After being ostrasized from my entire family, due to her talking about what she considered "bad" behavior toward her, they believed her. Now at the end of her life, its me that she has turned to. I take care of all her paper work, and real estate holdings. I watch over her care at the assisted living place she is now living in. I have not brought up my feelings toward her sneaky behavior toward me, and even "apologized" to my relatives, so she could stay in contact with them. I only am speaking this now to you, because of your articles. I realize now that my honest respectul attitude toward my mother has always been good, and I forgive her for what she has done to my relationships with my family, whom I loved.
I paid for my fathers burial, and continue to respect his memory and grave. i will do so with my mom, when G-d takes her back. Reply

Tuvia Zalman S. A., 78229 March 13, 2010

Kibudd Av Va'Em If I had three lives to give back what my parents gave me, I might be close to even. Reply

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