Dear Rabbi,

To put it mildly, my father and I don’t agree very often. In fact, our discussions often burst out into mutual, full-blown frontal attacks, very stressful for my mother and sisters as well. What can I do?


Yes, it can be a pain for everyone. But is it necessary?

On the one hand, you have your own mind and your right to your own opinion. On the other hand, you have a mitzvah—one of the Ten Commandments—to honor and respect Dad.

But who says you can’t have your own mind and fulfill the mitzvah as well? Why shouldn’t it be possible to disagree with someone and still show him respect?

Here’s a brief rundown on what “honor” and “respect” mean according to the halachah. Here is Maimonides’ rendering of these laws. Note that there’s nothing in there about having to think like Dad. You are permitted to be your own person. After all, who wants children who can’t think for themselves?

But—and this is really the crucial point in your situation—if you disagree with Dad, you’re not supposed to do it “in his face.”

Sometimes you can disagree in a respectful way—without contradicting him, or even saying that you disagree. However, usually the best response is no response at all. After all, you’ve got nothing to gain by responding, and everything to gain by zipping up. When you hear Dad expressing an opinion on one of those hot-button topics on which you vehemently disagree, just bite your lip and know that every second you refrain from speaking you are doing a great mitzvah, thereby becoming a better, more mature and refined person and chalking up points upstairs as well.

Aside from the mitzvah, you may just discover that you will all begin to enjoy the peace that you introduced into the household. It’s never easy at first, but it will be well worth the effort.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Menachem Posner