Halacha Date: 4 Kislev 5780 December 2 2019
As was mentioned in the previous Halacha, the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents includes two different aspects: honoring one’s parents and revering one’s parents. Indeed, the Torah states, “Honor your father and mother” and “Each man shall fear his mother and father.”
What does revering entail? One should not stand in one’s father’s designated place for prayer or sit in his designated seat at home (for instance, at the head of the table). Additionally, one should not contradict one’s father’s words by saying, “Father, what you have said is incorrect” or approve of his words by saying, “My father’s words seem correct.” (This shall be explained further.)
Some say that one may not sit in one’s father’s designated seat even when the father is not home. Others say that this is only a problem when this is done in the father’s presence, for only then is it a display of audacity and a lack of respect by the child sitting in his father’s place. However, if the father is not home, one may sit in his place.
Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that according to the letter of the law, a child may indeed sit in his father’s designated place if the father is not present. Nevertheless, we must add that in places such like ours where sitting in one’s father’s designated seat is considered disrespectful toward one’s father and his honor, for instance, due to the fact that he has a special chair and the like, according to all opinions one may not be lenient in this matter, for disrespect to one’s father is prohibited in any situation.
To what extent must one revere one’s parents? Even if one was wearing expensive clothing and sitting among important and influential people and his parents arrived, tore his clothing, hit him on the head, and spit at him, one may not humiliate them by exclaiming, “What have you done to me?,” and the like; rather, one must remain silent and fear Hashem, King of all kings, who has commanded one to do so. (This law is derived from the incident recorded by the Gemara, which we have mentioned in the previous Halacha, about how once, Dama ben Netina was bedecked with golden garments and was sitting among honorary Roman noblemen; his mother came, tore his clothing, whacked him on the head, spit in his face, and yet, he did not humiliate her).
What does honoring entail? One must feed his parents, give them to drink, dress them, cover them, and the like. All this should be done with a smiling and radiant countenance, for even if one were to feed one’s parents stuffed ducklings every day while bearing a scowling expression, one will be punished for this. Indeed, cheer and a radiant countenance is an integral part of the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents
To what extent must one honor one’s parents? Even if a parent takes a wallet full of gold coins belonging to the child and throws it into the sea in front of the child, the child should not humiliate them, distress them, or become angry at them; rather, he should accept this Heavenly decree and remain silent. Some say that if the child has the ability to prevent the parent from throwing the wallet into the sea, he may in fact exercise it. In any event, he may summon the parent to a Bet Din after the fact, for one is not obligated to lose money due to the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents.
In coming Halachot we shall, G-d willing, explain the differences between honoring and revering one’s parents.