Halacha for Thursday 7 Kislev 5780 December 5 2019

A Father Who Absolves His Son from Honoring and Revering Him

The following discussion is crucial to understanding important laws regarding honoring one’s parents.

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed some laws pertaining to honoring and revering one’s parents. There are certain laws that relate to a child’s obligation to honor his parents, such as serving them food and drink etc. There are other laws that pertain to the obligation of a child to revere his parents, such as not sitting in one’s father’s designated place, not contradicting one’s father, and the like.

Similarly, we have discussed that Halacha dictates that one may not call his friend who has the same name as one’s father by his name, for instance, if one’s father’s name is “Meir” and the child has a friend with the same name, he may not call his friend by name in the presence of his father. This law is also derived from the obligation to revere one’s father.

The Prohibition of Calling a Grandson Who is Named After His Grandfather by Name When This is done in the Presence of the Grandfather
Based on this we can infer regarding the prevalent custom among Sephardic and Middle Eastern communities that a grandchild is named after a living grandparent (as was indeed their custom for many generations) that one may not call his son who is named after his father by name when this is done in the presence of his father. Similarly, the child’s mother may not call him by name in the presence of her father for this would constitute a lack of reverence for one’s parents. For instance, if the child is named “Meir” after his grandfather, his parents may not call him by name in the presence of the grandfather.

A Father Who Absolves His Son from Honoring Him
We have a general rule (quoted in Kiddushin 32a) that if a father absolves his son from honoring him, the son is absolved from doing so. This means that if a father exclaims that he is no longer interested in his son’s serving him food or drink etc., he may indeed do so, and the son will subsequently be exempt from honoring his father (in these ways), for the father has absolved him of such. Although we say that even if a father permits his son to humiliate him, the son may not do so, this only applies to actual humiliation, for instance, if a father asks his son to hit him or humiliate him, surely the son is forbidden to comply, for this is a grave Torah prohibition. However, merely not honoring one’s father, when the father has requested as such, is not prohibited.

Thus, if a father tells his son not to come visit him because he wants him to be free to study Torah and the like, the son need not visit his parents, for the parents have absolved him of honoring them.

Based on this, it would seem that the same would apply to a grandfather who has grandchildren named after him; if the grandfather notifies his family members that he does not mind if the grandsons named after him are called by their full first names in his presence, he has thus absolved them from honoring him and there is no longer any need to be mindful of this issue. In this way, we can comprehend the widespread custom among many righteous individuals of calling their sons by their full first names in the presence of their father, even though the child is named after the grandfather.

A Father Who Absolves His Son from Revering Him
Nonetheless, it is still not so simple that this is permissible, for the prohibition to mention one’s father’s name in his presence stems from the obligation to revere one’s father. We must therefore analyze whether the laws of revering one’s parents are equal to the laws of honoring one’s parents in that just like a son is absolved from honoring his father if his father absolves him of such, the same applies to the laws of revering one’s parents, or perhaps reverence is more similar to humiliation and just as a father cannot permit a child to humiliate him, the same would apply here.

Although the Acharonim disagree about this issue, halachically speaking, Maran Ha’Chida rules based on several sources that if a father has absolved his son from revering him, the son is indeed absolved from doing so. Thus, if a father says that he wishes for his grandchildren to be named after him and that he permits the child’s parents to call him by this name even in his presence, the children may be called by their names without any concern.

As we have mentioned in a previous Halacha, Maran zt”l has several grandchildren named after him. Originally, some thought it better to give the child a nickname, such as “Adi” instead of “Ovadia,” in order to be able to call the child in the presence of his grandfather. However, Maran  zt”l ruled that this was unnecessary as he permitted them to call the child by his full name, Ovadia, even though this was being done in  his presence.

Similarly, if the father has an office and he sits in a set place in that office and requests that his son sit in his seat for whatever reason, since the father is requesting this from the son and certainly absolves his son of revering him regarding this manner, the son may sit in his father’s seat without any concern. Nevertheless, regarding a special chair designated for the father at home, this would depend, for if the son sitting in this chair appears to be an affront and audacious toward the father, the son would not be permitted to sit in this chair under any circumstances. However, if this does not seem to be degradation toward the father and the father requests that the son sit there, the son may indeed do so.

Summary: If a father absolves his son from honoring or revering him, the son is absolved from doing so. Only regarding a matter which is disgraceful toward the father may the father not absolve his son. Even if the father requests from his son to treat him in a humiliating manner, the son may not comply.

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