Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Kibud Av Vaeim

Kibud Av V'Aim is based on Hakaras HaTov. But like all Mitzvos, it has reasons that we are unaware of. So Hakaras HaTov would be enough to obligate us in KA"A, and the Mitzvah is designed to make us feel it, but even without Hakaras Hatov, the Mitzvah still stands.


Having Morah, fear, of your parents means to treat them like someone who is so "high", you'd be afraid of messing with them, like a king or something.

It means you can't call them by name, can't sit in their seat, can't contradict their words, to stand up for them etc. When davening for parents, though, one may refer to them by name.

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In the Zohar it says that you are obligated to love your parents.

Regardless of your relationship with them, you owe them gratitude. So much so that it should translate to love.

Part of the obligation of Kibud Av Vaim includes loving them intensely. The reason for this is appreciation and trying to repay them for bringing us into this world. We kinda owe them our love.

We can't force ourselves to feel something we don't really feel, but if the Torah obligates us to feel this it means that we can feel it if we would have a proper perspective on things.

The Torah wants us to feel grateful and beholden to anyone who benefits us even if that is their job or halahcic obligation. The Torah does not want us to take anything we have for granted, and that means being grateful to whatever source the benefit came from.

We have to look at parents as the people who gave us life. Even though they have a parental instinct and wanted kids and love us because of the instinct Hashem gave them, that does not diminish the obligation of gratitude and our desire to try to pay them back for our life.

Sometimes it’s hard to love parents, I know. I think it would help if you would try to imagine them as strangers, not parents. Meaning, imagine if 2 strangers would have brought you into this world. Strangers without any parental instinct or love for you. Just out of the goodness of their hearts they gave you life and dedicated their lives, time and resources to bringing you up, changing your diapers, paying your tuition, feeding and clothing you etc. I think that regardless of their problems, we would definitely be eternally grateful to such people. Now transfer that attitude to your parents, since in reality that’s the level of gratitude you owe them. The fact that they love their children and want children does not reduce what you have gotten from them. And your gain is what you are grateful for.

Slowly, the appreciation will lead to love. As you experience feelings of gratitude and appreciation for what these people do for you, you will develop positive feelings toward them. Please try to nature these feelings with a good dose of gratitude, and the necessary measure of forgiveness. This will lead to love.

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Obviously, children, after Bar/Bas Mitzvah, have Bechirah to choose as they desire. But parents have a tremendous ability to encourage their children to do the right way, as well as to c"v cause them great temptation to go the wrong way.

The biggest problem when parenting teenagers (I'm talking about fine, "functional" parents) is that they have to switch their parenting styles, strategies and attitudes relatively quickly and suddenly when their kids become teens.

Parents of pre-teens basically control their kids. They (the parents) make most decisions for them, and parenting involves finding ways to make sure the kid carries out your wishes.

But when a kid becomes a teen, he is now making decisions for himself. Even when he is obeys it is that he chooses to obey. The parents' job now is not to get the child to follow the parent's decision, but to get the child to make the right decision.

This is a Halachah. Children under Bar/Bas Mitzvah age have no "daas" in Halachah and generally, cannot make decisions for themselves. After Bar/Bas Mitzvah, the children gain "daas" and nobody makes decisions anymore for them. This happens suddenly, as soon as the kid becomes a teenager (or 12, in the case of a girl)!

With pre-teens, the parent is like the manager of a business, who makes decisions and whose skill involves finding ways to make sure their decisions are adhered to by the workers (the kids are the workers).

Parents of teenagers are like salesmen. They have to convince the customer to buy their product. (The kid is a customer.)

It’s hard for parents to give up what worked so well for 11 or 12 years on their child and suddenly switch from management to sales.

Hashem gave parents of teens all the tools to be the best salesman in the world. The customer already loves you, respects you, recognizes the wisdom of your judgments, and - this is the most important - knows that you are only trying to "sell" him something that is for his own good.

What happens is, when a parent tries to deal with their teen in "manager" mode and not "salesman" mode, they wreak havoc with the natural parent-child relationship. Not only do they not use the "salesmanship" tools that Hashem gave them to appropriately influence and guide their teenager, but they end up using tools that no longer apply, and causing conflict.
The parent tries to make the decisions for the teen and enforce them, which worked when the kid was younger. The teenager, upon whom was recently bestowed "daas" by Hashem sees the fact that the parent wants to make the decision for the teen as an assault on the teens ability - and right! - and obligation! - to make decisions for themselves.

The Seforim tell us that a person's ability to make decisions - his Bechirah - is what gives him life. The difference between a dead person and a live person is, a live person has bechirah. Nothing else.

So the child looks at an assault on their Bechirah as an attack on their life. They see their parents as trying to take away their identity, trying literally to kill them. The child's survival instinct kicks in and makes the kid fight the assault on their Bechirah, by stubbornly making sure that no matter what, they will make their decisions for themselves.

The parents see this stubbornness as rebelliousness, and for the sake of their children, they "clamp down", making sure that the child doesn’t get out of control, the same way they would have done when the child was a pre-teen.

The child sees their life threatened by the limiting or removal of life-giving Bechirah, and the parent sees their child's unwillingness to concede to the parent's wishes as a dangerous hefkairus and an abandonment of the obedience that has until now served as the child's moral compass.

So the kid fights for their life and the parents fight for their kid's life, and the "cycle of hostility" grows.

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If you want to be frum, you can be. Even without a shul. There will be help, especially from Hashem.

Please realize that by being frum now your religious father or mother doesn't win, (s)he LOSES. If he sees that when you were under his auspices and his home you weren't frum (enough) and when you left you decided on your OWN to be frum, it means that his home was a contributor to your not being frum (I'll bet it really was!).

Please realize that you are frum for Hashem, not for your father. You for sure want to eventually rid yourself of the anger and resentment that your father generated within you, and the way to do that is to make sure he does not control your life at all. Your instincts tell you this means you must NOT be frum, but instincts in crisis situations lie (we said this many times on these boards -- it's like you're in a car going 60 MPH and hit an ice patch; all your instincts tell you to slam on the brakes, but if you do you're dead). Every emotion within you tells you not to care about "what your father/mother wanted", meaning, frumkeit, and live your own life. But you see, by living your life specifically different from what your parents wanted, you are allowing him to influence your whole life, even though it is not in the direction he would have preferred. Any contribution that their desires makes to your lifestyle choices - be it to be frum or not - means they is controlling your life. You want to get rid of their baggage.

The way to do that is run your own life the way you really know deep down it should be run, as if his/her agenda never existed.

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The greatest of a child’s needs is the needs of his soul and his spirit. That is why a Rebbi – a spiritual parent - merits more honor than a biological one (aveidas aviv etc.). Your parents are providing for your this-worldly needs, and for that they merit much gratitude. But don’t ever forget what your most important needs are, and that it is those who fill, and have filled those, who are providing you with genuine, eternal life. And hakoras hatov does not necessarily include taking ridicule (see below).

The Halachah is, there is no obligation of kibud av va’em toward parents who are not "oseh maaseh amchah". You cannot demand honor because of a Torah that you yourself do not believe in.

That having been said, this is not justification for being generally disrespectful (“kibud” means “honor”, not respectfulness), courteous, and altogether a mentsch to your parents. “Hopeful” has a valid point that their perception of your behavior may effect their appreciation for Torah.

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The Torah is very, very concerned about how parents treat their children. Examples:

"A person should never cause excess fear in their home" (Gemora Gitin 6b).

"It is prohibited for a person to place a heavy burden on his children, and to be picky regarding their (the parent's) honor with them, in order not to cause them to do wrong. Rather, parents should forgive and 'turn the cheek' to them (the children)" (Shulchan Aruch YD 240:19).

The Gemora (Moed Katan 17a) says a father may not hit his child after a certain age because if he does so he violates Lifnei Iver, as he is tempting the child to hit back. And it is always forbidden to hit children out of anger.

The Mussar Seforim are replete with admonitions and instructions on how to have a good relationship with your children, and the importance of it.

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An ideal parent-child relationship, among other things: The parent loves the child with an indescribable love, and cares about the child's good, not because of any personal reasons such as wanting to be proud or getting "nachas", but because they care about the child's nachas and pride. And they act according to that standard: What is good for the child they do.

The child, on the other hand, realizes that what the parents do is for his own good and therefore obeys. The child is unspeakably grateful to the parent for bringing him into this world and giving him life. The child honors the parents accordingly.

Children can give back to their parents by growing up such the parent gets immeasurable Nachas - in this world and the next.

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A certain amount of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the teenager not create new and unnecessary needs and then expect his parents to figure them out.

There used to be no such things as a "teen culture". Teenagers were younger and different than their parents of course, but there was no mysterious "needs" that they had that were mind-boggling to adults.

But because teenagers in America became a market for fashion designers, sports paraphernalia sellers, rock stars, fast food places and various other money makers, an artificial "teen culture" was created that changes every few years. Obviously, there is no way parents can be expected to be part of this. Teens, on the other hand, can be expected to understand that, if they willingly choose to become part of the teen culture, that they may, to that extent, distance themselves from their parents' culture. Teens think that their distance from their parents is due to their natural needs. Not always. And not completely. Often it’s due to the teens' artificially created subculture.

Like if I join a gang, can I expect my parents - or anyone else for that matter - to know the culture of my gang, and if they don't understand it, does that makes them outdated?
It's not outdated, but rather unaffected by teen culture, that many parents are.

So you and your parents need to work TOGETHER to understand what your "needs" are - and your "desires". Parents can't be expected to know things through Ruach haKodesh. You have to explain it to them. It's not as comfortable as if the parents knew about the teen world themselves, but it can be done. The parents are not outdated, they are uninformed. That can change.

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The Torah teaches us that teenagers are neither adults nor children, but a mixture of both. A child under 13 (12 for girls) are not responsible for their actions. An adult over 20 is totally responsible. But between 13 and 20 - precisely the teenage years! - a person is half responsible (Bais Din punishes) and not responsible (Hashem does not punish).

You are half kid and half adult.

So check this out: When you were a little baby, you were totally dependent on your parents. When you're going to be, let's say, 25, you're totally independent. The path from total and complete dependence to total and complete impendence doesn't happen overnight. It's a gradual process. And the teenage years are the transition phase.

Half kid, half adult.

Your body and mind are presently shifting into the "independent" mode, learning the skills and developing the tools for you to break away from dependency on your parents, enabling you to live on your own.


So on one hand, your brain is like "You don't have to tell your mother what goes on in your life! You’re not a baby anymore".

That's the adult inside you talking. The part that wants to be independent.

But that's only half of you. The other half is saying "Why don’t you talk to your mother anymore? Why are you cutting her out of your life? Tell her what’s going on with you!"

That's the child in you, the other half of the teenage personality.

Both parts of you are 100% legitimate. They're both real and active. But it's kind of confusing having two opposing desires in the same person.

That's why teenagers are so often confused. They're half adult and half kid. Like the barad of Mitzrayim, two opposing forces in the same body.

Now here's the good news. There’s a part of you, a third part, that is neither adult nor child, but simply, generically "you". That's your Free Will, your choice-making ability. Look at it like kind of a moderator between the adult side of you and the child side.

What you need to do here is to use your free will to control when the adult in you has its way and when the child has its way.

In this case, let’s say you want to confide in your mother. That's definitely a fine thing to do. So (1) realize why it is that you are presently not confiding in her, (2) realize that no bad will happen to you if you do confide in her, (3) realize that you have the ability to choose to confide in her, (4) realize that even if you do successfully confide in her, the "independent" part of you will not be happy, (5) realize that neither part of you can always get its way, (6) don’t worry about any of this, because its all normal.

For a teenager, that is.

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If your parents have the status of "reshayim" then according to most poskim you are not obligated in Kibud Av. But if your parents are just unskilled at parenting or even have bad midos (but are not reshayim) then you are still obligated in KAV"A. Regarding your going to Gehinnom, worst case scenario, parent can make going to Gan Eden more difficult for children. But in the end, it all depends on the children's Bechirah. Parents can be held accountable sometimes for creating a difficult Nisayon, but the children have a choice whether to try to pass that Nisayon. If the Nisayon is absolutely beyond the ability of the kid to pass, then Hashem does not hold the kid responsible and nobody is going to Gehinnom. But that scenario is the exception not the rule. And only Hashem and the person themselves know what they really could choose and what is too difficult to overcome.

You do have to keep the Torah in front of non-believers. The Halachah of not having to obey your parents when they are not frum is not because you do not have to obey the Torah in front of them, but rather that the Torah never said that you have to obey them to begin with if they are reshayim.

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Assuming your parents are among those who you are obligated to be Mechabed - i.e. not Reshayim - the halchah is that according to some poskim, Kibud Av applies to your actions, speech, and thoughts in regard to your parents. See Sefer Chareidim ch. 1, mitzvos hateluyos belev #35), and Chayei Adam (67:3). Kibud av includes an obligation to look up to them as if they were dignitaries.

According to others (see Aruch HaShulchan YD 240:8), Kibud Av v'em is only with actions; but Moreh av v'em is in your heart and mind as well. Either way, however, your obligation more than just to perform proper actions toward them.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz ZTL used to say that to do this (which I admit may not be easy) you need to focus on some positive attribute that your parents have and respect them for those things, even though you would not do so for others.

These Halachos do not absolve you from the enormous yoke of gratitude (hakaras hatov), or the ethical requirements of mentchlichkeit.

The Gemora in Kiddushin that states a child must honor his father even when he (the father) wrongly instigates a fight is talking about a father who is religiously committed but doing something wrong. An "aino oseh maaseh amchah" means someone who is not religiously committed, and in such a case you are not obligated in Kovod.

That having been said, I would suggest that to be able to perform the delicate balancing act of not compromising your religion and at the same time living at peace with your parents, you imagine that it was not religion that the issue was, but rather plain ethics. Supposing you wanted to be very, very honest, yes-I-cut-down-the-cherry-tree honest, and your parents objected to this lifestyle. Certainly you would want to maintain a good relationship with your parents, but you would not be willing to give up your own integrity to do it.

That's the position you are in. Maintain a peaceful relationship with your parents, but remember that what they want to take away from you is your righteousness, your integrity, and your convictions. You should not give that up.

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Nobody is obligated to absorb insult and humiliation and be silent. See Sefer Hachinuch on “lo sonu” and Chofetz Chaim in his introduction. You have no obligation to allow yourself to be hurt, physically or verbally, by others, and you may do what is necessary to prevent them from insulting you further. It does NOT lower you to their level, any more than defending your country lowers you to the level of the invading army.

This is true even where it is the person himself that is being insulted. All the more so when the object of scorn is our Father in Shamayim. One need not remain silent when the Torah is being stepped on.


Please understand, too, that by being frum, you are providing your parents with what may be the biggest “zechus” (merit) they possess – a son who is Shomer Torah Umitzvos. You are only helping them by being frum, even if they do not know it. And you do your parents no favor at all by allowing them to stain their own souls by ridiculing the Torah.

That is the bare-bones Halachah. However, you need to employ some practical wisdom to determine how to apply it in a way that will not backfire against you. You don’t want to escalate the hostility in your home to even higher levels. You don’t want life in your home to become even more uncomfortable. I would suggest thinking, before you say something, whether in the long run it will bring you more trouble than tranquility. You should also try your hardest to avoid confrontation whenever possible. It may be worthwhile to speak in person to someone you trust and respect, and who knows you, your parents, and your situation at home, so that your decisions can be made on a situation by situation basis.

You have at your disposal, the rights and the means to defend yourself. It is up to you to use them wisely.

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You must listen to your father when his directives are in conflict with your mother's.

If you think that your father is beyond the point where he doesn't even know what he is saying, that would be different, and you must ask a competent Rabbi who is familiar with your father's situation.

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You only have to listen to your parents if they tell you to do something that has to do with them. Like bring your father his slippers or don't be so noisy around them. But something that does not pertain to them, like what to be when you grow up, you do not have to listen.

However, if in such a case, your parents will indirectly be hurt, there are those who say you have to listen. It's a machlokes. An example of such a case is where they say don’t dress in a way that will cause them embarrassment from the neighbors.

Even where you don’t have to listen to them, you should try not to directly throw your disobedience in their face by saying "I will not listen." Better just don’t do whatever it is, without contradicting them.

Or if your parents want you to do something stupid that will embarrass you publicly, you don’t have to do it.

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Married women are still obligated in Kibuv Av V'Aim, but they do not have to take the time to constantly do things for their parents, unless their husband allows it, since they are obligated to their husbands.


Feminism doesn’t square with Torah. While a woman is not a slave, and regarding certain things there is an understanding that rights are 50/50 (such as the phrase in the Tenoim "vyishletu bnichseihon shava b'shava" - use of their property will be 50/50) nevertheless a marriage is a team and while everyone on a team is needed and nobody is a slave, there is one captain. The husband is clearly the captain of the family and the wife assistant captain (See Shulchan Aruch EH 69:8). Details of division of duties responsibilities and authority is a separate matter. But its neither 50-50 nor slavery. You have to widen your options a little.

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The halachah is that the D'oraisa halachah of Kibud Av v'em only applies to things that pertain to your parents - NOT to aggravation they get because of things that you do in your own life. However, the inyan is still not to cause your parents pain, which is a good policy to follow even without any Halachic obligations.

That having been said, both the halachos of Kibud av as well as the simple menshlichkeit involved does not change one iota whether you live in their house or not. It is sometimes advisable, though, and this advice comes form the Rishonim, that if there is friction in the home, and the parents (as well as children) cannot get along, the children should consider moving out of the house in order not to violate kibud by fighting and such.

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It is altogether proper for you to call your step-parents Mom and Dad. Even though they are not biological parents, they are the ones bringing you up, the ones sacrificing for you, and the one who will treat you as if they had given birth to you.

In Halachah, they are totally considered "parents", along side your biological parents. The Posuk says this in Megilas Esther: "And Mordechai took Esther for himself as a daughter". Esther was his stepdaughter, but the Torah calls her his "daughter."

(Note: The fact that step parents are called "parents" does not necessarily mean that they share all Halaochos of biological parents, such as the negation of the prohibition of Negiyah and Yichud etc. there is a big controversy about this, explained elsewhere on the boards. Those Halachos do not depend on the status of being a "parent" but rather the biological relationship, which does not apply to "parents" of adoption.)

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If you see your parents doing an aveira, you're supposed to tell them that they are doing wrong, but in a respectful, even indirect, manner. Such as "Mom, didn't I learn in school that we can't turn on the hot water on Shabbos?"

If they don't listen, there's nothing you can do. It's their responsibility then, not yours.

If your parents are not very educated Halachicly, but are interested, you may want to buy them a good book as a present on these Halachos.

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Your home is your Makom. You have to follow the minhag of your home because it is your minhag hamakom. Even if you move out, your home is still the makom you came from, and you have to follow those minhagim.

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