Summary of Shulchan Aruch [Michaber & Rama]
Halacha 1: The Mitzvah and obligation
- One must be very careful in the honor of his father and mother and in fearing them.
- Can Beis Din enforce a child to honor or fear his parents: Despite the above obligation to honor [and fear] one’s parents, a Jewish court of law cannot enforce the children to honor their father [or mother], as it is a positive command which contains reward for its fulfillment, of which the rule is that a Jewish court of law cannot enforce laws of such nature.
Halacha 2: Matters of fear that one is obligated towards his parents
The following matters are included within the command to fear one’s parents:
- Standing in their place: One may not stand in the area that is designated for his father to stand when having discussions with friends [i.e., Sod Zikeinim], or in the designated area that he stands when praying.
- Sitting in one’s parents’ place: One may not sit in the designated area that one’s father lye at home.
- Contradicting one’s parents: One may not contradict the words of one’s parents.
- Commending their words and agreeing with their opinion: One may not arbitrate like his parents’ opinion in their presence, such as to say, “My father’s opinion seems correct.”
- Calling their name: One may not call one’s father by his name. This applies whether they are alive, and even after their death. Rather one is to say “Avi Mori/My father my teacher.”
- Calling someone else by that name: If there is another person with the same name as one’s parent, then if the name is rare amongst people, which means that not everyone is accustomed with the name, then one is to change their name when referring to them.
- However, if the name is a common name, then one may call another person by their name, when one is not in the presence of the parent.
Halacha 3: Parent tears child’s clothing and shames him in public
- One’s fear of his parents must extend to the point that even if he was wearing elegant clothing and sitting at the head of the congregation, and his father or mother came and tore his clothing, and hit him over the head, and spat at him, nonetheless, he may not [retaliate and] shame them in return, and is rather to remain quiet and fear the king of all kings which commanded him to do so.
Halacha 4: Matters of honor that one is obligated towards his parents
- Feeding and dressing one’s parents and other forms of service: What is considered honor of one’s parent? One is to feed his parents food and give them something to drink and is to dress them and help them enter and leave [their room and home].
- Likewise, one is to perform all other forms of service for his parents, as a servant serves his master.
- Serving and honoring one’s parents with a positive attitude: One is to serve his parents with a positive and happy attitude [i.e., Sever Panim Yafos].
- One who serves and honors their parents with a negative attitude [i.e., Panim Zoafos] is punished for doing so.
- This applies even if he provides them with the best of foods [i.e., Petumos], nonetheless if he does so with a negative attitude he is punished.
- However, in contrast to the above, if one shows a positive attitude and has good intentions, then he gets reward, even if the service itself appears negative, as explained next.
- Making parent work hard for his benefit: One who makes his father [or mother] perform hard labor [i.e. grind flour in a mill] in order to save his parent from an even more difficult labor, and the child speaks appealingly to his father’s heart, and shows him that his intent is for his best, until his father agrees to the labor [i.e. to grind in the mill], then the child inherits a portion in the world to come.
Halacha 5: Must a child support his parents with his own money
- Parents can afford: The food and drink that one is obligated to feed one’s parents is to come from one’s parents’ money, if they can afford it.
- Son can afford and parents cannot afford: If, however, the parents cannot afford to support themselves, then if the child can afford it, then he must feed them from his own money according to his affordability, and is actually forced [by the Beis Din] to do so [if he refuses].
- The Poskim, however, explain that the child is only obligated to support his parents from the money that he is obligated to give to charity [and not from his money which is in excess of his charity obligations].
- Nevertheless, one who can support his parents with his own money and instead chooses to use charity money to do so, is cursed.
- Now, if there are many sons, then the sons are collectively responsible for supporting their parent, each one in accordance with the amount that he can afford. Thus, if some of the sons are rich and some are poor, then only the rich sons are obligated to support their parents.
- Son cannot afford-Raising money for parents who cannot afford: If, however, the child cannot afford feeding his parents from his own money, then he is not obligated to beg for money in order to feed his father.
- Quitting one’s job in order to care for one’s parents: Although a child is not obligated to support his parents with his own money, nonetheless, he is obligated to physically care for his parents even if this will cause him to need to quit his job and beg for money in order to support himself. This, however, only applies if the son has enough money to support himself for at least that day. If, however, he does not have enough food for even that day, then he is not obligated to quit his job in order to care for his parents and go begging for money for his own support.
Halacha 6: Preceding one’s parent honor in order to receive a favor
- If one is in need of a certain matter from another person, such as if someone is in the city and needs to request a favor from someone, then if he knows that they will do so out of respect of his father, then he should request from them to do it out of respect for his father, in order to depend the respect on his father.
- This applies even if one knows that the individual would be willing to do him the favor due to his own respect.
Halacha 7: Standing up for a parent
- One is obligated to stand for his father.
- If the father is a student of his son in Torah learning: In the event that one’s father is a student of his son in his Torah learning, then each one is to stand on behalf of the other.
- May the son serve his father: In the event that one’s father is a student of his son in his Torah learning, then the father may not have his son service him, although if the son chooses to forgive his honor and serve his father, then you may choose to do so, as a Rebbe who forgives his honor, his honor is forgiven. However, this ability for the son to forgive his honor and service his father applies only in private, where no one will see him do the service. Alternatively, it is also permitted to be done in public in a city where everyone knows the father and son relationship and know that the individual that the Rabbi is serving is his father. If, however, the son is a famous Rabbi [i.e., Gadol Batorah] and his father is not well known in the city, then he may not forgive his honor and service his father, as this may appear like a belittlement of the Torah if the son belittles himself before his father. Accordingly, in such a situation, the father and son are to keep a distance [while going out in public in the city] in order so neither one is lenient in the honor and respect of his fellow. This was practically followed and done by the Maharam when he was together with his father [in a certain city in which the father was not well known but the Maharam was].
Halacha 8: Throwing away his money
- One’s honor of his father and mother must extend to the point that even if they were to take his wallet of gold from his possession and throw it in front of him to the sea, nonetheless, he should restrain himself from embarrassing them, and he should not express any pain while in their presence, and he should not get angry at them, and is rather to accept the decree of Scripture, and remain silent.
- May one stop his parents from throwing away his money: Some Poskim rule that if the son wishes, he may prevent his parent from throwing his money into the sea, as one is not obligated to respect his parent using his own money and is only obligated to do so using the money of his father, and there is no difference between honoring him or causing him pain.
- Nonetheless, this allowance to confront the parent only applies prior to the parent throwing the money away, as in such a case one is able to prevent the loss. However, once the money has already been thrown into the sea, then it is forbidden for one to [confront his parents and] shame him.
- Taking his parents to court to reimburse him for his loss: Although one may not confront and shame his parent for destroying his money nonetheless, one may take his parents to court to reimburse him of his monetary loss.
- Loss of profit: Even according to the opinion who permits a son to confront his parents in order to stop them from throwing his money into the sea, it is only permitted in this case in which a loss will occur to the current possessions of the son. However, even according to this opinion it is forbidden for the son to confront his father and stop them from causing him a loss of profit.
- Who gets to choose the location of the court proceedings: When a father and son are involved in a dispute that needs to be settled in court, and the father is the plaintiff [i.e. Toveia] who is making a claim against the son [i.e. the Nitva], [then although in general the rule is that the Nitva gets to choose the jurisdiction of the court proceedings, nonetheless by a father-son relationship] the son must go to the jurisdiction chosen by the father for the court proceedings to take place. This applies even if the son lives in another city and will need to travel to the jurisdiction chosen by his father, as all this is included in respecting one’s father.
- Reimbursing the son first traveling expenses: Despite the above, the father is obligated to reimburse his son for all of his expenses involved in the travels to the father’s jurisdiction that he chose to have the court proceedings in, as one is not obligated to honor his father with his own money, as already explained.
Halacha 9: Honoring parent after death
- Honoring parent after death: One is obligated to honor his father even after his passing.
- Mentioning them after death: One is obligated to honor his father and mother even after their passing. Thus, upon mentioning them within the 12 months, such as one who says, “My father taught me such and such”, he is to say, “My father my teacher, Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo [i.e., Hakam/הכ”ם].” After 12 months one is to say “Zichronam Livracha.”
- There is no difference between a father and mother in this regard.
- Writing: Some Poskim rule that even within 12 months one is not required to write “Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo” and is rather to write “Zichronam Livracha.” Other Poskim, however, are stringent even by writing [to write “Hareini Kaparas Mishkavo” when mentioning one’s deceased parent within the 12 months]. Practically, the custom is like the latter opinion.
Halacha 10: A parent who has lost their mind
- If a person’s father or mother has lost her mind the child needs to try to treat them and act with them in accordance with their mental capability, until [G-d] has mercy on them [and returns them to sanity].
- If, however, it is not possible for the child to deal with his parent being that the parent has become unbearably insane, then he may go and leave them be and instruct others to properly deal with them.
Halacha 11: Reprimanding a parent for transgressing Jewish law
- One who witnesses his parent transgressing words of the Torah should not explicitly tell him, “You have transgressed the words of the Torah.” Rather, one is to say, “Father, is it not written in the Torah such and such?” making it as if one is asking the parent a question, rather than warning him [and accusing him of transgression]. In this way one can have the parents understand on their own [that they are doing a transgression], without needing to embarrass them in the process.
- Correcting a parent for a mistaken Torah statement: If one heard his parent say an incorrect and inaccurate Torah statement, he is not to tell the parent “Do not make this statement/Lo Tisni Hachi.”
Halacha 12: Kibbud Av Vaeim versus other Mitzvos-Which receives precedence?
- No time to do both Mitzvos: If one’s father asks him to bring him a cup of water, and at the same time there is a passing mitzvah that he is able to fulfill, such as to bury the dead or participate in a funeral, then if it is possible for him to delegate this Mitzvah to someone else to perform, then he should delegate it and in the meantime perform the mitzvah of honoring his parent [by bringing him a cup of water].
- If, however, there is no one else available to perform the mitzvah in his stead, then he should perform the mitzvah and put aside the mitzvah to honor his father [and not perform the service for his father].
- Stopping in middle of a mitzvah to service one’s parent: If, however, he already began the mitzvah and only then did his parent ask him for the service, then he may first finish the mitzvah, as one who is in the midst of a mitzvah is exempt from any other mitzvah.
- There is time to do both Mitzvos: If the mitzvah could become performed at a later time, then one should first deal with the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and only afterwards perform the mitzvah.
Halacha 13: Kibbud Av Vaeim versus Talmud Torah-which receives precedence?
- The mitzvah of Torah learning is greater than the mitzvah of honoring one’s father and mother.
Halacha 14: Father versus Mother-Who receives precedence?
- If one’s father instructed him to give him water to drink, and also his mother instructed him to bring her water to drink, then he is to leave his mother’s request and deal with the honor of his father.
- If the parents are divorced: If one’s parents are divorced, then they are both considered equal status, and hence this child can choose to proceed whomever he wishes.
Halacha 15: Parent instructs one to transgress Torah
- If one’s father instructed him to transgress words of Torah, he may not listen to him.
- This applies whether it is a positive or negative command.
- This applies even by rabbinical command.
Halacha 16: Parent instructs child not to befriend his enemy
- If one’s father instructed his son not to talk with a certain individual, and to not forgive him, until the arrival of a certain date, then if the son desires to make peace with the individual right away, he may do so and ignore his father’s request.
Halacha 17: Women-Is a woman obligated to honor her father and mother?
- Both men and women are equally obligated to honor and fear their father and mother. This is with exception to a married woman, as will be explained next.
- A married woman: A married woman is exempt from [fulfilling the acts of] the command of honoring her father and mother, being that she is subjugated to her husband and is hence unable to fulfill this command.
- A divorcee or widow: The above exemption of a married woman applies only so long as she is still married, however, if she becomes divorced or widowed then she becomes re-obligated in the command to honor her father and mother [just as they applied prior to her marriage].
Halacha 18: Mamzer & Rasha parents
- A Mamzer is obligated to honor and fear his father. This applies even if his father was a Rasha, as explained next.
- Father is a Rasha: One is obligated to honor and fear his father [and mother] even if his father [or mother] is a Rasha and big Baal Aveiros [i.e., transgressor].
- Other Poskim, however, rule that one is not obligated to honor his father [and mother] if his father [or mother] is a Rasha, unless he has performed Teshuvah.
Halacha 19: Mechila-Parent forgives his honor
- It is forbidden for a parent to overburden his children with demands and to be overparticular with their respect towards him, in order so he does not cause them to stumble.
- Rather, he should forgive [his honor] and ignore their disrespect, as a father who forgives his honor, his honor is forgiven.
Halacha 20: Hitting one’s children
- Adult children: It is forbidden for one to hit his adult children. One who would hit his adult children would be placed in excommunication as he transgresses the prohibition of “Lifnei Iver Lo Sitein Michshol.”
- From what age is a child considered an adult? A child is considered an adult in this regard when he reaches 22 or 24 years of age.
Halacha 21: Stepfather and Stepmother
- A person is obligated to honor his father’s wife even though she is not his mother [i.e., stepmother].
- This applies so long as one’s father is alive.
- Likewise, one is obligated to honor one’s mother’s husband [i.e., stepfather] so long as one’s mother is still alive.
- After death of parent: However, after the passing of one’s father or mother one is no longer obligated to honor his stepfather and stepmother. Despite this, it still remains proper for one to honor them even after the death of one’s father or mother.
Halacha 22: Brother-Honoring one’s older brother
- A person is obligated to the honor of his older brother.
- This applies whether to a paternal older brother or a maternal older brother
- This applies even if the younger son is a greater Torah scholar and Torah giant more than the oldest son.
Halacha 23: Excommunicating an older brother who belittled a Torah scholar sibling:
- If an older brother belittled and shamed a younger brother who is a Torah scholar, and the younger brother excommunicated the older brother as a result, then he has done nothing wrong and it is even good that he excommunicated him, as being that the older brother does not respect Torah learning he therefore has excluded himself from his people and is not obligated to be respected.
Halacha 24: In laws & Grandparents
- Honoring one’s Father and mother In-Law: A person is obligated to honor his father in-law.
- Honoring grandparents: Some Poskim rule that one is not obligated to honor his grandfather. Practically, we do not rule this way and one is obligated to honor his grandfather, although not as much as his own father as one is more obligated in the honor of his father than the honor of his father’s father.
- May a parent serve a child: If a father desires to serve his son, it is permitted for the son to accept the service. [Thus, if a father or mother desires to serve a meal to their son, they may do so, and the son does not have to protest this.]
- If the father is a Torah scholar: If the father is a Ben Torah, then he may not serve his son.
- Choosing a Yeshiva for learning-Who gets to decide the father or son? If a student desires to go to a certain institution of Torah study in which he believes he will see success in his learning from the specific rabbi that is there, then he may go there even if his father protests this due to worry that the many Gentile idol worshipers who live there may harm him. The son is not obligated to obey his father’s requests in this matter.
- Choosing a wife-Who gets to decide who one’s son can marry? If a father protests to his son against the woman who his son desires to marry, then his son is not obligated to obey his father’s requests in this matter [and he may marry her if he wishes].