August 22, 2019

Honor Thy Father and Mother... but How Much?

“Among other values, halachah reminds us of the limits of human intuition, the advisability of turning to a more objective source of insight than whatever we happen to think. Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 12;59, dated 11 Iyyar (without a year), offers an enlightening example on a particularly thorny topic [I hear; not that I have any personal experience], problematic parents.

The mother of the man who approached R. Waldenberg had lost her senses, and was prone to disturbing and disruptive outbursts. A doctor had recommended tying her to a chair, and the man wanted to know whether the obligation to honor and fear our parents left room for him to follow the doctor’s advice.

Kiddushin 31b tells of R. Asi’s struggles with his mother. She first asked him for tachshitin, usually translated as jewelry. He made her some (which I think suggests it actually means spices and perfume, but that’s for another time). Then she said she wanted a man to marry, and he agreed to look for a match for her. When she added that she wanted someone as handsome as R. Asi himself, the Gemara tells us he left her and went to Israel.”

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