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  • Family and Society
  • Honoring Parents vs. Other Mitzvot

Keeping Halacha with non-religious parents


Rabbi David Sperling

Sivan 16, 5779
The situation is the son is passionate about keeping laws of Shabbat and Halacha, but his parents forgot their roots. The father says to his son on Shabbat to call some relative or switch on the light, but the son keeps the laws. So what to do and how to act? leave the house, disobey the parents for the sake of Jewish laws or ignore the parents and stick to Jewish laws?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Your question is not a new one, and in fact is found in the words of the Rabbis in the Talmud. They asked why the laws of honoring one's parents and put next to the laws of keeping Shabat in the Torah? They answer, that while one is obligated to honor their parents, this does not override honoring G-d, and keeping His Shabat (or any other law). So, the short answer to your question is – the son must keep the law rather than listen to his parents who tell him to break it. However – it is very important to make a few points here. Firstly, the son should make sure that he knows what the law is. In many cases a passionate child may think that they have to keep some law, without knowing that in fact the law is not what they thought. Or, that the law has leniencies that one should rely upon when face with a conflict with their parents – for only the strict letter of the law overrides honoring one's parents, not strictures. So, the son would be well advised to discuss the issues with a learned person before deciding themselves that that are forbidden to listen to their parents. Secondly, even when the law obligates one to go against their parents, one is still obliagted to do so in the most honorable way possible. So, the son will need to learn to try to avoid conflict with his parents even as he keeps the laws. Thirdly, the son should try to make every effort to explain and discuss with his parents so that such situations do not occur. Of course, each situation is different, and the son should try to find a Rabbi who can guide him personally (and perhaps even speak to the parents) so that they can all live in harmony. Blessings.
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