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  • Family and Society
  • Honoring Parents vs. Other Mitzvot

kibud av v’em


Rabbi David Sperling

Av 18, 5774
My father who is extremely sensitive and uncomfortable with Jewish Law speaks to me after I wash for bread before I make Hamotsi. Am I allowed to respond to him or must I remain silent? Also, after I make hamotsi can I eat just a bite of the bread and then talk to my father. Or, does the first kezayis of bread have to been eaten with "c’dei akhilas pras" immediately following the brocho of hamotzi? Kol tuv sela.
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I am glad to see that the laws of honoring your parents are foremost in your mind. Obviously, the best solution for this type of question is to have a polite a conversation with your father and explain to him that after washing your hands you really shouldn't speak for the moment or so it takes until you say the blessing on bread and eat a bite. Hopefully you can explain to him that just as you don't feel good answering him with your mouth full of food, for example, this is a just the polite Jewish way to act. If you have a good relationship, then by giving him forewarning and a polite explanation, you should be able to avoid the problem altogether. However, I am aware that sometimes the situation is not so easy – and some relationships are tense enough without adding "just one more little thing". I will have to leave you to be the judge of how well you think such a conversation would go. If the reality is that you end up having to be a situation where the choice comes down to answering your father between washing and blessing for bread, or remaining silent – the halacha is as follows. Not talking between washing and ha'motzi is a point of argument in the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Haim166,1), and our practice is to try and not talk between the two. But, in cases of need we rely on the lenient opinions and allow talking. One such case is to answer someone who addresses us, especially in a case where they are persons deserving of our honor (such as your father). (See Shut Yeshuat Moshe, 3,16, quoted in Piskey Tshuvot 166, footnote 14). So, if you feel that a nod of the head would not suffice to answer your father, you may answer him if needed. None the less, you must make extra sure to guard your hands and ensure that they remain clean and that you do not remove your attention from them. As to talking after taking a bite, but before eating a kezi'it – one may certainly be lenient and rely on the many opinions who allow talking after taking even a small bite (see Mihna Brurah 167, 35). As soon as you have swallowed some of the bread, you may talk. If after swallowing you need to talk and it means not eating the first kezi'it within "c’dei akhilas pras", that is also permitted, as that practice is only a stringency that should never come at the expense of honoring others (especially your parents!). May the blessings of honoring your father bring Shalom to both of you, Blessings.
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