Halacha for Sunday 21 Shevat 5779 January 27 2019

Honoring Non-Religious Parents

Question: Is there an obligation to honor and revere one’s parents if they are non-religious and continue on their path of not keeping Shabbat, Kashrut, family purity, and the other Mitzvot or in this situation, is there no obligation at all to honor them?

Answer: The Rambam (Chapter 6 of Hilchot Mamrim) writes: “Honoring and revering one’s parents is a great Mitzvah indeed; even if one’s father is a wicked individual and a sinner, one must still honor and revere him.” According to the Rambam, even if one’s parents are truly wicked people, one must honor and revere them. This is certainly the case regarding non-religious Jews today who, for the most part, behave the way they do because of a lack of understanding of the beauty and significance of our holy Torah due to the secular education they received in their youth and which plucked them from observing the very religion their ancestors gave up their lives for throughout thousands of years.

Nevertheless, the Tur disagrees with the Rambam and writes: “It seems to me that since the father is a wicked individual, the child is not obligated to honor him.” He continues to bring proofs to his opinion. Several Rishonim indeed ruled in accordance with the Tur’s opinion. Nevertheless, Hagaon Harav Yaakov Berlin (a Rabbi in Fürth, Germany, who lived approximately three hundred years ago) quotes Rabbeinu Yehonatan Eibeschitz who explains the opinion of the Rambam based on the Gemara in Kiddushin (49b) which states, “If one tells a woman, ‘You are betrothed to me on the condition that I am a righteous individual,’ even if he is a wicked person, she is doubtfully betrothed, for he may have repented in his heart.” Based on this, we must say that a son is obligated to honor his father because he may have repented in his heart. Nonetheless, many authorities disagree with Rabbeinu Yehonatan Eibeschitz’s approach, for according to him it would seem that the obligation to honor one’s wicked father is only doubtful, whereas from the words of the Rambam it would seem that it is a definite obligation. There are many other approaches in order to explain the words of the Rambam.

Halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules in accordance with the opinion of the Rambam that one must honor one’s parents even if they are wicked; Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules likewise. This is especially true in our times when Hashem’s divine intervention is not as revealed as when open miracles were commonplace, when Heavenly voices rang out, and when the righteous people of the generation were directed by divine providence that was clear for all to see. In our times, unfortunately, the lower elements of our nation have lost this faith in Hashem and Hashem’s divine intervention is hidden; thus, one should treat even one’s wicked parents with respect so that they may come to love and cherish Hashem and His Torah.

Nevertheless, Maran zt”l adds that this applies only when the parents do not bother their children who have merited becoming Torah-observant Jews (Ba’alei Teshuva) and they admire their children’s courage to take such a step or if they are, at the very least, indifferent to their children’s decision. However, if the parents harass their children about their decision to become Torah-observant because of their hatred of religion, they are considered like heretics and apostates who must certainly not be honored and respected. Wherever possible, it is preferable that the children separate themselves completely from such parents by moving to another city so that they will not have to come into contact with them. All this should be done only after much level-headed thinking and consultation with wise and G-d-fearing Torah scholars who will guide them in determining whether disconnecting from one’s parents completely, after they have raised them for so many years, is the correct step to take or perhaps it may be sufficient to retain a situation where the children meet their parents only infrequently.

In any event, according to both the Tur and the Rambam and even regarding parents who accost their children because they have become observant, surely one may not torment or denigrate them, as the holy Zohar states that our matriarch Rachel did not merit raising her son Yosef because she aggravated her father Lavan when she stole his idols.

Similarly, if, G-d forbid, one’s child strays from the proper path of Torah observance, one should not be so hasty to break off all contact with the child, for this is indeed an easy way out but usually is not conducive to producing any positive results. Rather, one should try as much as possible to bring the child closer to the proper path and hope that the child will repent fully. Regarding this matter as well, one must be sure to seek the advice of Torah scholars who are experts in the field of proper Jewish education to guide one along the proper path. May Hashem indeed bring all of the sinners of Israel to repent fully, Amen.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Searching for and Renouncing Chametz

The Laws of Searching for Chametz On the eve of the Fourteenth of Nissan, which will fall out this year (5779) tonight, Thursday night, one must search for Chametz by candlelight. The candle must be made of wax (or congealed paraffin oil, common nowadays) as per the enactment of our Sages. If one ......

Read Halacha

Question: How many “Kezayit”s (olive’s volume) of Matzah must one consume during the Pesach Seder?

Answer: One is obligated to eat altogether three “Kezayit”s of Matzah during the Pesach Seder. Every Kezayit amounts to approx. 30 grams of Matzah. Nevertheless, there is room for stringency to eat four or even five “Kezayit”s of Matzah, as we shall now explain. The Order......

Read Halacha

Elimination and Sale of Chametz

Elimination of Chametz On the morning of the 14th of Nissan, meaning this year (5779) which falls out on this coming Friday morning, one must eliminate Chametz before the last time to do so arrives. (In Jerusalem, the latest time for burning and renouncing Chametz is at approximately 11:20 AM and t......

Read Halacha

The Pesach Seder-Kadesh

The famous order of the Seder of the eve of Pesach, Kadesh, Urchatz, Karpas, Yachatz, Magid, Rochtza, Motzi, Matzah, Maror, Korech, Shulchan Orech, Tzafun, Barech, Hallel, Nirtzah, was established by the leader of the entire Jewish nation, Rashi. The entire Jewish nation customarily follows this ord......

Read Halacha


Mentioning “Morid Ha’Tal” and “Barechenu”

The Amida Prayer during the Summer Months The first day of Pesach marks the end of the rainy season and as such, beginning from the Mussaf prayer of this day, “Mashiv Ha’Ruach U’Morid Ha’Geshem” is no longer mentioned in the Amida prayer. Instead, we say: “Ata Gi......

Read Halacha

The Prohibition to Eat Matzah or a Meal on Erev Pesach and the Laws of Matzah

On the day of Erev Pesach (which is the 14th of Nissan), one may not eat Matzah so that one will be able to eat Matzah that night at the Seder with appetite. One may, however, eat Matzah on the night of the 14th of Nissan (meaning the night before the Seder night, this year on Thursday night). &......

Read Halacha

“And You Shall Tell Your Son”

Question: Does one fulfill the Mitzvah of “And you shall tell your son” on the Seder night by recounting the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt to his daughters or does only one who tells this over to one’s sons fulfill this Mitzvah? Answer: The Torah states regarding the Mitzvah......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Blessing of the Trees

The Proper Time for the Blessing of the Trees Our Sages, who have established the Blessing of the Tress, write that the proper time for this blessing is during the month of Nissan, for it is then that trees begin to blossom and buds come forth. It would seem from the words of our Sages though that ......

Read Halacha