Exposing a Parent’s Dishonesty

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by R. Ari Enkin

Although one might think that it is forbidden to expose a parents’ dishonesty owing to the mitzva of kibbud av va’em, this actually may not be the case. In the event that one knows that a parent is lying, cheating, or otherwise engaging in illegal activities, one is often permitted, and sometime obligated, to report them.

As the Sefer Chassidim writes: [1]Sefer Chassidim 1087 “If one sees that people are relying upon the honesty of one’s father, mother, or rabbi, but one knows that they are not conducting themselves faithfully, it is permitted to tell people the truth or otherwise advise them not to trust these individuals.  However, one may not describe them as “evil” or “wicked”.” In a similar, but more forceful fashion, we find that not only did Rivka warn Yaakov about her father’s deceptive practices, but she also labeled him a “swindler”. [2]Megilla 13b. Chashuk Perhaps Rivka was permitted to label her father in this way because his reputation for dishonesty was renowned and she was not exposing anything previously unknown.

Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein discusses a case in which a doctor was stealing medical supplies from a hospital that he worked at in order to stock his private clinic. His daughter, who managed his private clinic, noticed that the clinic was always well-stocked with all types of valuable medical supplies that were obviously taken from the hospital without permission. She tried to gently convey to her father that his actions were unbecoming, but her father denied any wrongdoing.

Rav Zilberstein ruled that in this instance the daughter should indeed report her father’s theft to the hospital in order to save him from the terrible sin that he was continually committing. He also writes that the patients of his private clinic deserve to know that their doctor is a dishonest individual and therefore not likely to merit any Divine assistance in his work. Nevertheless, he rules that she must first warn her father that she is going to report him, and she is required to do so even it means that she will lose her job with him.

Rav Zilberstein then cites the opinion of Rav Chaim Kanievsky who ruled that the daughter was permitted to ignore the situation and not report her father. He argued that hospitals know that doctors often take supplies for personal use, and essentially turn a blind-eye, even though it is dishonest and not permitted.  Under these circumstances, Rav Kanievsky ruled that she should not report her father, which would risk his job and cause him the embarrassment that would likely follow. [3]Chashukei Chemed, Shabbat 56b.

It must be emphasized that the dispensation for exposing one’s parents and other trusted officials is only in order to prevent them from continuing their sinful ways and not in order to further any other personal agenda. If possible, one should first warn one’s parents that one is going to report their dishonesty in the hopes that doing so will deter them from continuing in their ways. So too, one should explore other ways to convince a parent to cease their dishonest behaviors before one exposes them.

It must be noted that this chapter only deals with exposing one’s parents’ dishonesty in order to save others from falling victim to their schemes. This chapter does not deal with reporting such conduct to the secular authorities which is an issue that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis with rabbinic guidance. Nevertheless, in the event that a parent or any other person is a menace to society or is at risk for harming others, then one is obligated to promptly report them to the authorities. [4]Shach, CM 345:45, 388:59.

 

Endnotes

Endnotes
1Sefer Chassidim 1087
2Megilla 13b. Chashuk
3Chashukei Chemed, Shabbat 56b.
4Shach, CM 345:45, 388:59.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com

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