The Mitzvah and obligation of Kibud Av Vaeim

The Mitzvah and obligation:[1]

A. Its Biblical status:

Honoring and fearing one’s father and mother are each a positive command in the Torah[2], and honoring one’s parents is famously listed as the fifth of the 10 Commandments. [The command of honoring one’s parents is listed by the Rambam as the 210th Command of the Torah[3], while the command to fear one’s parents is listed by the Rambam as the 211th Command of the Torah.[4]]

B. Its importance:

Being very careful in this Mitzvah:[5] One must be very careful in the honor of his father and mother and in fearing them.[6] [This mitzvah is considered the most severe of severe.[7] People must strengthen themselves in the fulfillment of this mitzvah, as due to our many sins, there are many common transgressions that occur in this command due to lack of knowledge of its details and due to lack of knowledge of its importance. Things have become so bad that is now the parents who need to respect and honor and fear their children as opposed to the opposite.[8] Part of the reason behind why people are lax in this mitzvah, is because people are so accustomed to being with her parents and become accustomed to a relationship that does not involve respect or fear of parental hierarchy.]

Overcomes the evil of Eisav and hastens the redemption:[9] Esav was renowned for his meticulous honor that he showed his father. Until this day his descendants reap the rewards of his mitzvah, and due to it were given the power to rule over the Jewish people. Thus, when the Jewish people also properly perform this mitzvah of honoring their parents, they revoke this permission from the descendants of Esav. This in essence hastens the redemption. It is due to this great power contained within the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents, that Satan wages war against it and places obstacles in front of children to prevent them from fulfilling it properly.

C. Its greatness and reward:

The greatness of the Mitzvah:[10] Honoring one’s parent is a great positive command in the Torah.

The virtue:[11] One who honors his father and mother, G-d considers as if He has dwelled in that household, and that He was honored.[12] [Indeed, the fulfillment of this mitzvah draws the divine presence onto the Jewish people.[13]]

Is praised:[14] Whoever is most careful and pious and strict in the fulfillment of this mitzvah, is praised.

Reaps the reward in this world: The Mishneh[15] states that honoring one’s father and mother is one of those Mitzvos listed which one gets to eat from their fruits in this world, and still retains its reward in the next world. Thus, although he will receive reward and even this world, he will not lose out from any of the main designated reward in the next world.[16]

A high place in the Garden of Eden:[17] One who is careful in the mitzvah of honoring his parents, merits a high place in the Garden of Eden on the level of the absolutely righteous.

Long life:[18] One who honors his father and his mother, Scripture[19] promises him long life. Thus, whoever desires a long and healthy life with a proper livelihood and to live with honor and respect should always abide by the will of his father and mother.[20] Accordingly, one should never bemoan the fact that they need to spend so much time in dealing providing and serving their father and mother, as it is in this merit that his life will be lengthened.[21] Some[22] write that the long life which is promised in exchange for honoring one’s parents, is not to be viewed as a reward for the Mitzvah, but is rather a special Segula that this mitzvah has in addition to its reward [just like one gets to benefit from the eating of the food, even when the eating involves a mitzvah, and the reward that he will receive is independent of the benefit].

Hastens the redemption:[23] One who fulfills this mitzvah properly hastens the redemption.

Merits righteous children:[24] One who fulfills the mitzvah of honoring his parents properly, merits to have children who are upright and righteous, God-fearing and servants of God, who will discover true novelties in Torah, and not cause others to sin

Protected from Ayin Hara:[25] One who fulfills the mitzvah of honoring his parents properly merits to have children who are protected from Ayin Hara

A wicked person:[26] Even a person was considered a Rasha is protected by God and receives much reward for fulfilling the command of honoring his parents, as can be seen from Eisav.

D. The punishment:[27]

One who is not careful in the honor and fear of his parents, can receive many punishments and evils which can befall him, including the following r”l:

  • His days are shortened.[28]
  • He is liable for death.[29]
  • He is punished greatly in the next world.
  • He blemishes the higher spheres.[30]
  • He creates obstacles for repenting.[31]

E. The Tikkun for one who stumbled in not properly honoring and fearing his parents:

One who transgress the command of honoring and fearing his parents, is to perform the following Tikkunim for his sin:

  • He must ask forgiveness from his parents.[32]
  • He must resolve from now on to properly honor and fear his parents.[33]
  • He is to fast a certain number of fasts, or redeem these fasts with charity according to his level of affordability.[34]


[1] Pesakim Uteshuvos 240:1-2; 15

[2] Rama ibid “Mitzvas Asei”; Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 210-211; Chinuch Mitzvah 33; 212

[3] Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 210; Chinuch lists it as the 33rd command of the Torah

[4] Rambam Sefer Hamitzvos Mitzvah 211; Chinuch lists it as the 212th command of the Torah

[5] Michaber Y.D. 240:1; Braisa Kiddushin 30b

[6] The reason: As this command to honor one’s parents is connected with the verse which discusses the honoring of God [“Kabeid Es Hashem Mihonecha,” Mishleiy 3:9]. [Kiddushin 30b and 32a]

[7] Tanucham Parshas Eikev 2; Yerushalmi beginning of Peiah; See Kiddushin 31b that due to its severity and demanding details, Rebbe Yochanon stated that from a certain perspective, one who has not met his parents benefits from the fact that he will not be subject to being punished for not properly honoring them. Likewise, Rebbe Ze’ira once expressed sorrow that he was an orphan who never met his parents and was never able to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring them, and later after learning of the severity of this mitzvah exclaimed that he is indebted to God for not having been challenged with this mitzvah. [Yerushalmi Peiah 1:1]

[8] Yearos Devash 2:2 and 12                                                               

[9] See Noam Elimelech Parshas Vayeitzei; Rachamei Ha’av 2

[10] Rambam Mamarim 6:1; Maharashdam O.C. 36 “There is no greater mitzvah than the mitzvah to honor one’s father and mother which is connected with the honor of God.”; See Yerushalmi Peiah 1:7 that this mitzvah of honoring one’s parents in the eyes of God is even greater than the mitzvah to honor Him Himself.

[11] Kiddushin 30b

[12] As a man “Ish” and woman “Isha” both contain the Yud and “Kei” of G-d’s name. Thus, it is considered that G-d is dwelling within them, and by them being honored one is likewise honoring Him. When however, there is lack of honor, then G-d does not dwell his name of Yud “Kei” within the parents and they thus remain “Eish” Eish”, fire with fire. The reason that the parents get punished for this is because they brought up a son which does not honor them. [Agados Maharsha]. Based on this perhaps one can explain the connecting between chapter 240 in Orach Chaim and this current chapter which is also 240. As when parents fulfill the proper form of kedusha in their marriage, which is the laws mentioned in 240 Orach Chaim, then they merit that the sons fulfill the laws of Kibud Av Vaeim in 240 Yoreh Deah.

[13] Menoras Hamaor 13

[14] Harash Peiah 1; Yireim Mitzvah 222; Meiri Kiddushin 31b

[15] Peiah 1:1; Kiddushin 39b; Shabbos 127a

[16] Meiah Shearim Shaar Vav

[17] Seder Hadoros Erech Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Alam

[18] Is the promise for long life to be taken literally? There is an opinion in the Talmud which states that the intent of all the rewards in the Torah for long life is for the world to come and not in this physical world, as can be proven from the fact that there was once a child who on instructions of his father climbed up a tree to shoo away a mother bird, and on his way down he died. Even though two mitzvah’s with a promise of long life were performed simultaneously by this child, he still died, hence proving the intent of the reward is only for the next world. [Rebbe Yaakov in Kiddushin 39b; See Rambam Teshuvah 9:1] Nonetheless, from the fact that the Mishneh ibid explicitly states that we reap the fruits of this mitzvah in this world implies that we do not rule like this opinion. This is in addition to the fact that it is clearly evident from the Talmud that other opinions disagree with Rebbe Yaakov.

[19] Devarim 5:16

[20] Tana Dvei Eliyahu Raba 26

[21] Rabbeinu Bechayeh Yisro in name of Rav Sadya Gaon

[22] Or Hachaim Hakadosh Shemos 20:12; Ahavas Shalom Kedoshim; Perhaps this indeed is the intent of the Mishneh Peiah ibid regarding eating the fruits in this world while retaining the reward for the next world

[23] Yearos Devash 2:2; See also Radak Shoftim 6:11

[24] See Tanchuma Parshas Kedoshim 15; Midrash Raba Bamidbar 14 regarding Naftali; Pesikta Parshas Bereishis; Menoras Hamaor Elenkava 9; Midrash Rebbe Eliezer Ben Rebbe Yossi Hagelili; Midrash Talpiyos Anaf Kibud Av Vaeim; Or Hachaim Hakadosh Vayikra 19; Pela Yoeitz Erech Kibud Av Vaeim; Megilas Yuchsin Toldos Hamaharal Meprague p. 7; Sefer Meiah Shearim Shaar 5;

[25] Tochachas Chaim Parshas Toldos

[26] Tanchuma Parshas Kedoshim 15; Meiah Shearim Shaar Vav

[27] See Tanchuma Parshas Noach 15; Chareidim Asei 1:37; Sefer Chassidim 342

[28] Rashi Shemos 20:12; Mechilta; Pirkei Derebbe Eliezer 39 regarding Yosef; See Sotah 13b

[29] Derashos Chasam Sofer Shavuos; Midrash Aseres Hadibros Dibbur Hei

[30] Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 33

[31] Rif and Rosh Yuma Chapter 8

[32] Chida in Shiyurei Bracha 241:3; Sefer Chassidim 573; Nachal Kadmonim Parshas Shemos; Yosef Ometz 87

Other opinions: Some Poskim question whether one is required to ask forgiveness from his parents if he did not properly honor or fear them, as perhaps this command is between man and God and hence one must only ask forgiveness from God. [Minchas Chinuch Mitzvah 33] However, certainly if one’s parent was offended by the child then according to all opinions the child must ask them for forgiveness as would apply if they offended any other person.

[33] Rambam Hilchos Teshuvah; Shemos Raba 23:3; Zohar 2:217; Yuma 6b

[34] See Shaar Ruach Hakodesh of Rav Chaim Vital Tikkun Ches [fast 26 fasts]; Tikkun Tes [fast 45 fasts, Gematria of Av Eim with Kolel]; Ben Ish Chaiy Shoftim 2:22 [redeem with charity if weak]; Tanya Igeres Hateshuva chapter 3 [today that we are weak redeem with charity]

How much money to give to charity: One should give money to charity in accordance to his affordability. If one can afford it, he should give the value of 13 grams of silver to charity which is the equivalent of 12 Peshutim, per day of fasts. If one can afford to give more, than he should give more, and if one can’t afford to give the above amount then he should give less, each person according to his capability, as the main thing is to feel the pain of the money. [See Admur 334:28; Rama 334:26; Terumas Hadeshen Pesakim 60; M”A 568:33; Az Nidbaru 5:51; Piskeiy Teshuvos 334:10; Pesakim Uteshuvos Y.D. 240:1 footnote 22] One is to give the charity to poor Torah scholars and other charitable institutions.

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