Respecting Parents – Honoring Parents

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Halakhic Positions of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik

There are two mitzvot governing the obligations of a child towards his parents. One of these mitzvot is Kibbud, honoring one’s parents, “Kabbeid  et  Avicha Vet  Imecha” (Shemot 20:12, while the other is Morah, “Ish  imoh  veAviv  Tirauh”  having reverence of one’s parents (VaYikra 19:3).  Kibbud involves taking care of the parents’ physical needs: providing food, drink, clothing, taking the parents in and out, or simply stated- doing positive things for them; Morah means recognizing their authority. The Rambam states: (Mamrim 6:7) “One should not stand or sit in his place, nor contradict him, and should not try to get him to change his mind”, or to avoid doing negative things towards them.

Rav Soloveitchik explained, that in Torah we find that Eisav exceeded Ya’akov in fulfilling the mitzvah of Kibbud Av. R’ Shimon ben Gamliel said: “Kibbud Eisav Mah Sheloh Hayiti Yachol LeChabbed  Ani  Et Avi” , R’ Shimon ben Gamliel said, that he wished that he could provide Kibbud to his parents to the same extent as Eisav. Kibbud  often arises out of an instinctive feeling of self-preservation, as the child knows that a time will come when he/she himself will require the same services as the father.  Kibbud can be found in the animal kingdom as well: young eagles provide for older eagles that can no longer fly. Chazal portrayed Eisav as a master of Kibbud. A strong instinct drove Eisav to honor Yitzchak.

However, the true gauge of the relationship between child and parent is not in the mitzvah of kibbud, but in the mitzvah of morah, an imperative that Eisav ignored. Kibbud is a mitzvah that can only be fulfilled while the parent is alive. The morah imperative, however, is actually stronger in death than in life. As blurred as our memories become regarding our parent’s physical appearance, the greater the gap in time, the stronger the bond. While kibbud wanes with distance, morah actually grows with distance.

About Aharon Ziegler

Rabbi Aharon Ziegler is the Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Agudath Achim of Boro Park and the Dean and Rosh Kollel of Kollel Agudath Achim. He is the author of six volumes of Halakhic Positions of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

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