Halacha Date: 23 Shevat 5779 January 29 2019
Not Being Overly Strict With One’s Children
The Rambam writes: “Although one must revere his parents exceedingly and honor them, nevertheless, one may not over-burden one’s children and be overly particular with one’s honor so that he does not bring them to sin; rather, one should be forgiving and disregard one’s own honor since a father who absolves his son from honoring him, the son is indeed absolved from doing so.” The Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rule likewise.
A Father who Absolves a Son from Humiliating Him
These words of the Rambam that “if a father absolves his son from honoring him, the son is indeed absolved from doing so,” are taken from the Gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (32a) which states, “Rabbi Yitzchak bar Shila said in the name of Rav Matna who said in the name of Rav Chasda, ‘If a father absolves his son from honoring him, the son is indeed absolved from doing so,’” which means that if a father would like to forego being honored by his son, he may. However, a father may not absolve a son from humiliating him, for instance, if a father permits his son to curse him and the like, for one who curses a parent is liable to death by stoning and the father does not have the authority to permit such a thing.
Similarly, a father may not permit his son to call him by his first name as some people have begun doing in our times, for calling one’s father by name is considered “humiliation” which would cause any intelligent person to cringe and a father cannot absolve his son of acting in such a manner.
The Prohibition to Strike One’s Older Children
Our Sages tell us in Masechet Mo’ed Katan (17a): “One who strikes one’s adult son is liable for excommunication, for he has transgressed the prohibition of ‘You shall not place a stumbling-block in front of a blind man.’” This is because human nature is that when one receives blows, one tends to retaliate. Thus, if an adult child is hit by his father or mother, he is quite liable to transgress the grave prohibition of hitting them back. Therefore, one should be very careful not to strike children when this is likely to cause them to transgress a prohibition of either hitting him back or cursing him, depending on the nature of the child.
The above does not apply to striking a child which was a common form of punishment in earlier generations; rather, one should take care not to over-burden one’s children with other forms of punishment or discipline as well. Sometimes, even a young child of seven or eight may lash out against his parents when the parents punish him in an excessive manner.
One Whose Parents Serve Him Food and Drink
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l was asked: If one goes to visit one’s parents and the parents serve him refreshments such as coffee, cake, and the like; is one allowed to accept this from his parents, for one’s wishes represents one’s honor or perhaps one should not to accept this? After delving in the words of the Poskim, Maran zt”l replied that the son may accept what his parents serve him after requesting their forgiveness for causing them to trouble themselves for him. However, if one’s father is a Torah scholar, one should refuse to accept the refreshments from him until the father implores him to take it in order to show that it is difficult for him to accept the fact that his father has troubled himself for him. Only after the father has implored him to accept it may the son do so, while offering apologies and words of appeasement.
A Torah Scholar’s Honor is Absolved
Just as a father is able to absolve his son from honoring him, so too, if a Torah scholar absolves others from honoring him, they too are absolved from doing so. However, if a king absolves his subjects from honoring him, they are not absolved from doing so.