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  • Family and Society
  • Obeying One's Parents

listening to parents


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Av 11, 5781
if somebodys father tells him to do something that he’s not having direct enjoyment, most hold that you do not have to listen. Q. If my cousin is getting married and my father wants all his kids to be there, what does that go under? direct enjoyment like getting him dressed and you have to listen, or it’s not a personal benefit and you are not obligated to listen?
Shalom U'vracha, If it is very important for your father that you go to this wedding and it isn't overly difficult for you to be there, then you must go. If it is very difficult for you to go then you are not obligated to go but if you do go it is definitely a mitzvah. Explanation: You are correct that according to most poskim the basic mitzvah to honor one's parents is only in fulfilling the parents' needs like dressing and feeding them. Something that does not have to do with the basic needs of the parents is not obligatory in the mitzvah of honoring your parents. We find this in the halacha mentioned in the Rema (Yorehreh Deah, 240:25) in the name of the Maharik, that if a father tells his son not to marry a certain girl that the son wants to marry, the son is not obligated to listen. Rav Asher Weiss was asked (Minchat Asher- Corona:157) if someone wants to take a vaccine for covid-19 and his father objects- does he have to listen to his father? His answer was that he shouldn't listen to his father. I will mention a few points that he brings up that are relevant to your question. 1. Rav Asher Weiss explains that according to the Rashba, (Yevamot: 6:1, and the Chazon Ish says something similar) although the main mitzvah of honoring one's parents is only fulfilling their basic needs, there is still a certain general mitzvah to honor them by doing whatever they want even if it doesn't directly affect the parents. This is the basic will of the Torah. If this is the spirit of what the Torah wants of us then we must fulfill it, even if it is not explicitly mentioned. (see also minchat asher devarim, 51;6). However, when it comes to a general mitzvah like your question mentions, if it is a significant hardship then one is not obligated to fulfill the wish of a parent. Accordingly, if it is not so hard for the children to make it to the wedding they must listen to their father. 2. According to Rav Pinchas Horvitz 'the Makneh' (Kiddushin 31:2) one must listen to his parents even when it comes to something that is related to the kids life and isn't related to the parents physical needs. The reason is because if the son doesn’t listen then he is transmitting the mitzvah of 'morah av' fearing one's parents. Rav Asher Weiss disagrees with him and feels that it isn't a definite chiyuv but it is what the Torah wants us to do as we mentioned above from the Rashba. 3. Another point Rav Asher understands from the terumat hadeshen is that if the father is extremely worried and bothered about his son than the son must do what the father wants because these worries and fears are also considered his needs. This type of need is no less important than physical needs. According to all this, if the father really wants his children to attend their cousins' wedding, and it is not such a hardship, then they must listen to him and come. According to the Makneh, if the son doesn't listen he is transmitting the mitzvah of 'morah'. And even without the Makne's chiddush, according to the Rashba, one has to fulfill what his parents ask of him. This is provided that it is not a big hardship. Mazal tov and all the best!
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