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What Is The Reason: Older Siblings & "Evil Parents" Print E-mail

What Is The ReasonI often hear you tell stories about your sisters. Isn’t there an obligation to honor your older siblings? U.S. As a long suffering youngest of six children I am often challenged by the laws of honoring older siblings. I can always rely on the Shevut Yaakov and according to the Pitchei Teshuva (Yoreh Deah 240:19) who quotes the Mabit, that there is no Mitzvah to honor an older sister beyond the basic obligation to behave with Derech Eretz to everyone.

Unfortunately, The Torah Temimah (Shemot 20:86) holds that there is a specific obligation to honor older sisters. He brings a Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah, Vayeitzei, 84) that says that Rachel died early because she did not properly honor her older sister Leah. The violation of the obligations of Derech Eretz would not cause death. He brings further proof from the Talmud (Avodah Zara 17) that says that Ulah would kiss his sister’s hand as a sign of respect. Rashi comments that one must kiss the hand of a person he is obligated to honor. I tend to reject the Torah Temimah’s position. I am also convinced that the Rambam disagrees.

The laws regarding older brothers are clear: There is an extra “vav” in “Honor your father and mother,” to teach us that one is obligated to honor one’s older brother. (Ketubot 103)

The Ramban (Hilchot Mamrim 6:15) teaches, that the Sages ruled that one must honor an older brother. The Maharsha (Yoreh Deah 240:22) rules that it is a biblical obligation to honor the firstborn brother. The obligation to honor other brothers is only Rabbinic. The Torah Temimah rules that there is only an obligation to honor one’s oldest brother.

I was told that there is no obligation to honor parents who are considered “reshai’m,” evil people, and that my parents, who are not observant, are considered Resha’im. I was told that I am allowed to speak Loshon Harah about them. I am very bothered by these statements. Can you please offer some guidance? M.A.

There are so many levels and layers to your questions that I don’t know where to begin:

Let’s assume for the moment that your parents are considered resha’im, which I completely and absolutely reject, you may absolutely not treat them with disrespect! The Chidah (Commentary to Sefer Chassidim) that although the Rambam and Tur argue whether you are obligated to go out of your way to honor the, you may not ever treat them with disrespect. In fact, the Zohar teaches that Rachel died early because she treated her father Laban, a super Rasha, without respect when she stole his idols. King Hezekiah was allowed to disgrace his father’s remains in order to help his father atone for his sins.

The Hagahot Shmei Kedem rules that the only reason Abraham was allowed to abandon Terach was that Terach surrendered all his rights as a father when he handed Abraham over to Nimrod to be burned to death. The Bigdei Kohen rules that only a father who has completely rejected his child’s life, does not deserve any respect. No matter who the father is, he gave his child life and must always be honored for that.

The Rivash (220) writes in the name of the Raavad that even if a parent has released a child from the obligation of honor, the child may not act or speak disrespectfully. The Bet Yosef (Bedek Habayit Yoreh Deah 240) is not as certain.

I generally have a big issue with people who rule that a child can be completely released of his obligation to honor parents: We mourn the death of a parent for a year because we lost our opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvah of honoring our parents. Why would a person released from the Mitzvah not have to mourn?

As to speaking Loshon Harah about parents, I cannot imagine that it is ever permissible to speak disparagingly of a parent other than a specific act of evil that must be combated. There are so many laws involved, even a curse, when speaking negatively of a parent, that even if the parent is truly a rasha, it cannot be permitted.

Please remember: The Laws of Loshon Harah also describe the damage we cause to our souls even if the letter of the law permits the speech!

I do not know your parents and I wonder whether the person who spoke with you meant to say that they may not be considered “oseh ma’aseh amcha,” people who act according to Jewish law. I find it hard to believe that someone would describe non-observant people as evil. Please ask this person what he meant.
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