We have discussed previously that part of the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is serving one’s parents food and drink as they wish. Included in this is that when one’s parents are elderly and can no longer care for themselves, their sons and daughters must care for their physical needs such as food, drink, clothing, and the like. It is well known that when children treat their parents respectfully in their old age, they will merit that their children will treat them with dignity in their old age as well and not just abandon them, G-d-forbid.
The Gemara (Kiddushin 31b) records a disagreement regarding who must bear the financial burden for honoring one’s parents. Must the children pay for the expenses of honoring their parents out of their own pockets or is the financial burden not their responsibility? The Gemara concludes that the ruling is that the expenses incurred by honoring one’s parents are to be paid with the parents’ money and not from the child’s. Thus, as long as the parents have their own money, the son need not spend his own money in order to provide for them.
For instance, if the father is elderly, lives alone, and requires the aid of an attendant and he has savings and other funds but does not wish to spend money for the services he requires, the children are not obligated to pay for this on their own since the father carries this responsibility.
However, if the parents do not have enough money to provide for themselves, we do in fact obligate the children to provide for their parents from their own money. If the children do not have enough money to support their parents either, they are then exempt from providing for them. Nevertheless, they are still obligated to honor their parents physically, meaning that they must still go and take care of their needs without spending money. Even if this will cause the son to miss work and lose money, he is still obligated to physically honor his parents and provide them with everything that they need, short of spending his own money, as we have explained.
Nevertheless, there are situations when the father has money but the children will still be obligated to pay for his needs. The situation must therefore be carefully weighed, for there are sometimes elderly people do not spend their money because of emotional reasons and may be living in inadequate conditions. In such situations, it is quite possible that the children are obligated to provide for their parents financially, for the entire Jewish nation is obligated in the Mitzvah of Tzedakah. This is certainly true regarding one’s parents regarding whom there is an important obligation to care for all of their needs.
The Baraita (Kiddushin 31b) teaches us that if one knows that the people in a certain place respect one’s father and they wish to show him honor and he comes and requests a certain favor on behalf of himself and his father, although he knows that they will fulfill his request out of respect for him regardless of the respect they have towards his father, nevertheless, one should still not request the favor in his own name; rather, he should say, “Do this for my father,” so that the respect is afforded to his father. By doing so, the people in that place will have also respected the father and the father’s overall honor will have been increased. The Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch quote this Baraita as Halacha.