Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Honoring the Parents
To dedicate this lesson

Piece of Cake

We’re going to be cutting up the cake with a picture of Mommy and Daddy, and then everyone will be eating their picture. Isn’t that a little odd? is it even allowed?


Rabbi Daniel Kirsch

Sivan 16 5781
Adina had nearly fished the pink zipper pajamas out of the closet, when the phone rang. It was Meir. Adina pushed the "answer" button. For her part, Adina’s two-year-old, eager to take advantage of the unexpected reprieve, happily scampered off the changing table, and went back to emptying the puzzle cabinet of its contents.
"Adina," Meir’s voice took on a note of urgency. "We’re not talking about just any anniversary. This is Mommy and Daddy’s 30th! It’s a big deal. We need to do something to show them just how much this means to us!"
"Absolutely," Adina concurred. "Do Miri and Elisheva have any ideas?"
"We’ve been brainstorming," Meir responded. "I’m just not sure if what we’ve come up with will work. It’s the wrong season for a family ski event, Mommy gets seasick, so the dinner cruise is out, and a hot air balloon won’t fit all of us."
"How about if we try a different direction altogether." Adina paused. "How about if we keep it local, you know, just like, rent out a hall, and get one of the better caterers, and a few piece band, and stuff like that. What’s wrong with that?"
"Adina, I can’t believe you’re talking like this!" Meir exclaimed. "How will Mommy and Daddy know how happy we are for them? What’s going to make it seem really personal, like this whole event is about them?"
"Personal? Personal! Meir, I’ve got it!" Adina shouted into the phone. "We’ll get them a cake. A huge cake. And it will have Mommy and Daddy’s picture on it! I know a bakery where you can order cakes with edible printed pictures. With a personalized cake like this, there won’t be any doubt in Mommy and Daddy’s mind that this party is all about them!"
"Adina, you’re brilliant! Mommy and Daddy will love it. And everyone will be so excited to eat…" Meir’s voice trailed off. "Wait a second! That means we’re going to be cutting up a picture of Mommy and Daddy, and then everyone will be eating their picture. Isn’t that a little, eh, odd? I mean, is it even allowed?"
Answer of Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlita:
It is forbidden to cut a cake with a picture of one’s parents on it, because it is a form of degradation of the parents.
There is an incident involving our forefathers, which demonstrates this principle. The Yalkut Shemoni (Parshat Vayechi, remez 172 and Samuel II, remez 173) states that, at the time of the burial of Yitzchak Avinu, Yaakov entered Me’arat Hamachpela (the cave in which the forefathers are buried), and proceeded to cry over the death of his father. His sons left the cave, in order to allow Yaakov to cry unobserved. As Yaakov’s brother, Esav, entered the cave, Yehuda feared that Esav planned to kill Yaakov. Yehuda followed after Esav, and saw that Esav was, in fact, attempting to murder Yaakov! Yehuda stood behind Esav, and preemptively killed him. Why did Yehuda choose to kill Esav from behind, rather than while standing in front of Esav? Because Esav’s face resembled that of Yaakov. Therefore, Yehuda chose to kill Esav from the back, in order to accord honor to the image of Yaakov.
Answer of Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, shlita:
It is permitted for children to order a cake which features a picture of their parents. This is not a degradation of the parents. In fact, the opposite is the case. It is a form of honor for the parents, in that the children are demonstrating that the parents are worthy of the effort expended in procuring such a cake.
(It should be noted, however, that it would be forbidden to cut the image on Shabbat. One would have to cut around the picture, in such a case.)
In summary: According to Rabbi Zilberstein, it is improper to create a cake which features the image of one’s parents, because it would be disrespectful to cut and eat the picture. According to Rabbi Nebenzahl, it is permitted and even praiseworthy to create such a cake.

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