Love Versus Fear
Taste of Talmud
In the time of the second temple, there lived a man by the name of Nakdimon Ben Gurion. One day, he was called to an important meeting with the wise men of Rome. He sat there adorned in a regal gold cape, discussing matters of great import to the Roman nation, when suddenly his mentally deranged mother stormed into the room. She walked right over to her son and yanked his beautiful golden raiment off of him. In so doing her shawl slipped off of her shoulders. Much to the surprise and admiration of all those present, Nakdimon humbly bent down, picked it up, and returned the shawl to his mother without saying a word of insult in return. This is one of numerous stories of kibbud av v’em that is told in the Talmud about Nakdimon and other gentiles. These stories are brought to show us the great lengths that we as Jews must go in order to fulfill the commandment of honoring and revering one’s mother and father. In the Pri Tzaddik, Rav Tzaddok Hakohain of Lublin asks: Why does the Talmud bring stories of adulation about gentiles if the Talmud itself actually teaches us that we should not unnecessarily praise or show grace to a gentile? To answer this question Rav Tzaddok explains that the attributes of honor and reverence for a mother and father come more naturally to a gentile. This is because a gentile lives for this world and anyone who increases his ability to enjoy this world is honorable in his eyes. So it comes quite naturally for them to act reverently and to honor their parents. The Talmud is teaching us that we would do well to learn from these gentiles’ exemplary behavior to realize the extent to which we, as Jews, are to honor and revere our parents.
Taste of Halacha
The Rambam in Hilchos Mamrim 6:3 lists the ways in which we are obligated to show reverence to our parents. These include not sitting or standing in a place that is designated for them. It also includes not adjudicating between them and another in a disagreement. Then in 6:7 (ibid.) the Rambam says and to what extent should you have such reverence to your parents? Even if you would be sitting donned in precious garments before a great assemblage and your father or mother would enter and tear your clothes from upon you, hit you, or spit in your face: you may not disgrace them. You must remain silent and show reverence and fear for the King of all kings who has commanded you to honor and revere your parents. To explain this, the Rambam gives a parable: If a king of flesh and blood would command you to control yourself in such a difficult situation wouldn’t you find the ability to do so? How much more so now, that this is the command of the one who decreed and brought the world into existence. The Bais Lechem Yehuda (Rabbi Tvi Hirsch of Vilna)asks if you are required to listen to your father even if he commands you to disobey a doctors no feeding order. What if one’s father would say “give me a drink or I will not forgive you in this world or the next: Are you obligated to follow his missive or may you disregard him to due to the detrimental effect this would have on his health? The Bais Lechem Yehudah concludes that in such a case the father has no right to abuse his health therefore the command is not a legitimate command and a child is therefore not obligated to listen to the parent in this particular case. Rabbi Chaim Jachter extrapolates from here that one would not be obliged to heed a father’s request for a cigarette.
Taste of Parasha
“Every man should revere his mother and father” (Leviticus 19:3). Here in Parashas Kidoshim, the Torah adds the element of revering one’s parents to the aforementioned Mitzvah to honor them, previously given in the Ten Commandments. The Talmud makes note of the fact that in regard to honor, the father is listed first while in regards to “yir’ah” (revere) the mother is listed first. Rashi comments on this and says the reason is because a child more naturally has “yir’ah” of his father, that is why it was necessary to tell him to have “yir’ah” of his Mother first. Rav Tzaddok Hakohain of Lublin takes this concept a step further. A mother is the first teacher of a child and it is from her that a child receives his first awareness of G-d this is crucial to his developing a proper attitude and reverence for the Torah which he will receive more completely from his father or his father’s messengers. Rav Tzadok explains that it is only with a solid dose of Yiras Shomayim that the Torah Subsequently learned will be properly inculcated into a balanced life style. The first Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel was known to have said, “The Yiras Shamyim I have, I received from the stories of righteous people that I heard in my youth. Rav Kanievsky is known to tell people that if you want to have G-d fearing children, make sure that you and your wife say your Berachos out loud and with feeling. If you look closely in the Talmud in Kidushin, you will see that, indeed, the way the Talmud writes the reason why a mother is listed before the father is because, “the father teaches him Torah”. This has the important Implication, that only if the son will receive a little yiras shamayim form his mother first, will he really merit to apply and live by the Torah of his father!!!!