(31b) Parameters of Kibbud Av Va'em
By: Rav Mordechai Willig shlita
(Written by Rav Meir Orlian based on a shiur given in Tevet 5762)
The Gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (31b) relates the following story about Rav Asi:
?? ??? ??? ??? ???? ??? ?÷???. ???? ???, ????? ??????? -- ??? ??. ????? ???? -- ?????? ??. ????? ???? ????? ????? -- ??÷? ???? ????? ??????. ??? ?÷? ???? ??????. ??? ?÷??? ???? ?????, ??? ??', ??? ???? ???? ????? ????? ?"?, ????. ?÷??? ??? ???? ?"?, ???? ????. [????] ????? ??? ???. ??? ???, ??? ?????? ????, ??÷?? ?????? ????? ???'. ????? ???? ??? ?????? ?÷???. ???, ?? ???? ?? ??÷?.
Rav Asi had an elderly mother. She said to him:"I would like jewelry." -- He made for her."I would like a man [to marry]." -- "We will search for you.""I would like a man as handsome as you!" -- He left her and went to Israel.
He heard that she was coming after him. He came before R. Yochanan and said to him:"May one leave Eretz Yisrael to chutz la'aretz?" He said to him, "It is prohibited.""To greet mother, what [is the law]?" He said to him, "I do not know."
He waited a little bit, and came again. [R. Yochanan] said to him, "Asi, you want to go -- May G-d bring you back in peace!" ... Meanwhile, he heard that his mother's coffin was arriving. He said, "Had I known, I would not have left."
The GR"A writes that Rav Asi left his mother because she had become crazy. [Her expectation to find a husband as handsome as Rav Asi, who was in the prime of his health, for an elderly widow, was totally unrealistic!] This is based on the Rambam (Hil. Mamrim 6:10), who derives from this story that it is possible to leave a senile parent in capable hands.
One may ask on this Gemara, why did Rav Yochanan, who was the gadol hador, not know the halacha at first? In addition, what did Rav Asi mean, "Had I known, I would not have left?"
The simple reading is, "Had I known [that my mother already passed away], I would not have left [Israel just to greet the funeral procession]." However, this seems to contradict the very next line in the Gemara, "He honors him in his lifetime and he honors him after his death," which teaches that the obligation of kav"a continues even after death!
The Maharsha writes that perhaps to go towards the funeral procession is not called honor for the deceased. Similarly, the Tos. Ri Hazaken writes, "This is not included in honor after death." Why not? What, then, is kavod after death? Furthermore, we know that there is a mitzvah to go to the funeral of a great person, etc.
The Gemara continues:
????? ????? ??? ???? ??? ????? ????, ?? ???? "?? ??? ???" ??? "?? ??? ??? ??? ????? ???? ?????". ???? ???? ??? ???? ??? ???. ???? ????? ???? "?????? ????? ???? ????? ???".
After his death, how [does he honor him]? If he says something he heard from him, he should not say, "So said my father," but rather, "So said my father, my teacher, hareini kaparat mishkavo (I am the atonement for his death)." This is during [the first] twelve months. From then on he says, "zichrono livracha lechayei ha'olam haba (May his memory be blessed for the life of the world to come)."
What is kav"a while parents are alive? The Gemara writes that honoring includes giving food and drink, dressing and covering, and escorting in and out. Apparently, the Ri Hazaken and Maharsha interpret that kavod does not mean "honor" in the classical sense, but rather service. Although attending a funeral gives honor to the deceased, certainly if he is a talmid chacham, it does not entail service, and is not included in kav"a. The only example of service after death is saying "hareini kaparat mishkavo." Nowadays many people don't say hk"m, which is against this explicit Gemara! The Gilyonei Hashas (Rav Yosef Engel) explains that reciting Mourner's Kaddish is a substitute for hk"m. However, if leaving Eretz Yisrael to attend the funeral is not defined as kavod, since it does not entail service, then why is saying hk"m considered as such?
Rashi writes, "a son provides merit for his father," and alleviates his suffering from the fire of Gehenom. This is comparable to a father who is sitting in a hot room and asks his son to turn on the air conditioner, which is a form of kavod. (Presumably this would be included under the category of dressing and covering.) Thus, certainly if the father is in the fire of Gehenom, and by saying hk"m the son reduces the heat -- this is kavod of service! This is also the idea of reciting Kaddish, as we find in the story of R. Akiva, who saw in his dreams a man all dressed in black. R. Akiva taught the man's son to say Kaddish, and the man returned to thank R. Akiva for alleviating his suffering. (See Beit Yosef Y.D. 376) [Accordingly, while it is a great kavod hamet to dedicate a Yeshiva wing in memory of the deceased, it does not technically qualify as kav"a, which has to be service.]
Thus, we can understand the statement of the Ri Hazaken and the Maharsha that greeting the funeral procession is not technically kav"a. The simple understanding, though, is that attending a parent's funeral is also a form of honoring them. Why, then, did Rav Asi say, "Had I had known, I would not have gone?"
The Ran (??. ???? ???"? ?"? ?????' ??) makes a very important point, which has halachic ramifications. He first cites the Rambam, that if one cannot remain with his parents because they have gone totally crazy, he should leave them and entrust others to deal with them properly (e.g., place them in a senior center, get an aide, etc.). He then cites the Ra'avad, who argues on the Rambam, and writes that this is not a proper ruling, "If he leaves them, who will he tell to look after them?" The Ran questions this from story of Rav Asi, which supports the position of the Rambam. He suggests that according to the Ra'avad that this is only permissible in order to go to Eretz Yisrael, but concludes that this does not seem so.
The Rashash offers an alternate interpretation of the Gemara. Rav Asi meant, "Had I known [that she would come after me and die along the way], I would not have left [Bavel]." He was afraid that the difficulty of the travel or the anguish of his leaving caused her death. The Rashash suggests that perhaps this how the Ra'avad understood the conclusion of the Gemara, that in the last line Rav Asi retracted from having left her.
Thus, we have two interpretations of Rav Asi's comment. One, that simple honor is not included in kav"a, but only service. Two, that in the end Rav Asi conceded that he was wrong in leaving. However, the Shulchan Aruch, who quotes the Rambam, and the simple reading of the Gemara -- that there was no need to leave Israel to provide honor after death -- is like neither interpretation. Thus, our original question from, "He honors him ... after his death," returns.
We would like to provide a third interpretation of Rav Asi's comment, based on the following introduction. What is the halacha if a parent is not observant -- is there an obligation of kav"a? The Shiltei Giborim (??: ????"? ??? ?') cites a dispute regarding this issue. The Rambam writes that a mamzer is also obligated to honor and revere his parents, even though he is not punished for hitting or cursing them unless they do Teshuva. The Tur, however, maintains that the son is not obligated if the father is wicked. He brings a proof from the Gemara in B. Kama (94b), that if the father stole something, the children are only required to uphold their father's honor and pay for it if he did teshuva. Thus, the Rambam seems to be against an explicit Gemara that kav"a applies only if the father is not wicked!
Perhaps we can answer this question, as well as our original one in the case of Rav Asi, based on the following chakirah: Is kav"a is mitzvah between man and G-d or between man and his friend? One practical ramification of this issue is whether one has to ask pardon from his parents on Erev Yom Kippur for neglect of kav"a or does teshuva alone suffice. If it is a mitzvah between man and G-d -- one would not have to ask pardon; if it is between man and his friend -- he does.
One the one hand, the fact that kav"a is included on right side of Tablets indicates that it is between man and G-d, as the Ramban writes. Similarly, we find in Kiddushin 30b, "There are three partners in man: G-d, his father and his mother. When a person honors his father and his mother, G-d says, 'I consider it as if I dwelt amongst them and they honored Me.'" Yet, it is almost undeniable that there is also a component between man and his friend. The Sefer Hachinuch writes that the basis of kav"a is gratitude: Since they brought the child into this world, he owes them the courtesy and honor to take care of them and to provide them what they need. Thus, there seem to be two components to this mitzvah.
Each aspect of kav"a has a limitation. The basis of the component between man and G-d is the metaphor of three partners. When a person enters a partnership, he is usually meticulous as to whom his partner is; otherwise, he may lose everything. Presumably, G-d is also meticulous in his partnership. Thus, the metaphor of three partners implies the potential to be a partner with them, but only if they are people worthy of G-d's partnership, i.e., they observe the mitzvot, but not if they are wicked. Thus, the dimension between man and G-d exists only if the parents are righteous people.
As far as the aspect between man and his friend, there is a strong possibility that these interpersonal mitzvot are limited to individuals who are living. Although we read "chesed ve'emet," and to be involved in the chevra kadisha is still called "chesed shel emet" -- this is a separate category, which stands apart from the general grouping of interpersonal mitzvot which form the cornerstone of our society. This is commonly referred to as a "social contract," and Torah thinkers have commented on the element of reciprocity in "Ki biglal hadaver hazeh -- galgal chozer ba'olam (poverty is something cyclical)."
If these two parameters are correct, we can explain the Rambam's opinion. The Rambam, who mandates that even a mamzer honor his parents, refers to a parent who is wicked, but alive. However, the Gemara, which discusses returning a stolen item that was inherited, refers to a parent that is dead. If one's parents are alive and righteous, the child is obligated in kav"a on two accounts. However, if the parents passed away, only the aspect of between man and G-d remains. On the other hand, even if one's parents are wicked, there remains an interpersonal responsibility of gratitude for bringing the child into this world -- they are his biological parents. But if the parents are both wicked and dead -- as in the Gemara's case of one who stole a cow -- neither obligation exists.. This answers our second question above.
Is one allowed to leave Israel for kav"a? Rav Ovadiah Yosef shlita writes that one may not, since we find that one may leave Israel only for three reasons -- to learn Torah, earn a livelihood, and find a wife -- whereas kav"a is not listed. (Although the Pitchei Teshuva in Even Ha'ezer 75:6 questions this point based on the Tashbetz, Rav Ovadiah Yosef explains that even the Tashbetz only permits to leave for a short time to greet them and return.)
Yet, we must ask, what would the halacha be in the following scenario? A person borrows a large sum of money as a long-term loan in order to open a business. Shortly afterwards, he decides to move to Israel. The lender wants to restrain him from going, until he can repay the loan, since it is not likely that he will be able to on an Israeli salary. What is the ruling? It seems that the lender is correct. Even though there is a mitzvah to live in Israel, and repaying a loan is not listed as one of the three reasons to leave, to be a "tzaddik" at the expense of someone else seems illogical. The three reasons mentioned relate to obligations between man and G-d, but interpersonal reasons are obvious. Now, a person owes a tremendous debt to his parents for bringing him into this world. Thus, if parents need you, such as if they are older, and need you to take them here and there -- you cannot leave them!
Perhaps this is the explanation of the Gemara in Kiddushin that we began with. R. Yochanan allowed Rav Asi to go greet his mother because expressing kav"a to a parent to whom one owes a debt of gratitude is more important than yishuv Eretz Yisrael. When Rav Asi found out that mother had passed away, only the ritualistic aspect between man and G-d remained, in which case there are only three reasons to leave. Thus, Rav Asi said that if had known that his mother already passed away, he would not have left Israel to greet her, since the interpersonal aspect no longer exists, and the ritualistic aspect is not sufficient cause to leave Israel.
Perhaps this also explains R. Yochanan, who said, at first, that he didn't know whether one may leave, and later allowed Rav Asi to go. Perhaps he knew the halacha all along, but not the facts. He did not know why Rav Asi wanted to leave. Was is because of the ritualistic obligation to honor parents or because of the interpersonal need? Therefore, he said, "I don't know." When Rav Asi came back again with his question, R. Yochanan understood that the motivation was a personal need, and therefore he permitted him to go.
Thus, in conclusion, if parents want their child to leave Israel, there are three factors to consider:
If the son is needed to tend to his parents, they may be right in principle.
If the son is not needed, but the parents love their children and want them to be close, or worry about them -- sometimes their request is reasonable and legitimate, and returning to them is considered paying back, while other times their desire is not reasonable. It is hard to generalize here.
(Kavod is an obligation to help, mora is the obligation to obey: "He does not contradict his words..." This obligation of mora is only binding if the parent's request is reasonable. There is a well-known Rama about a parent's objecting to his son's shidduch. It seems from that Rama that a child has no obligation to listen to his parents in regards to his own matters. However, the Chazon Ish writes that this is not so -- as proven by R. Tarfon (31b) -- but only if the request is "reasonable." For example, if the parent objects because the prospective young lady is not blond -- this is not reasonable, but if it is because she is ill or not able to bear children -- this is reasonable.)
Talmud Torah is greater that kav"a, as we derive from Yaakov in the Gemara Megillah. However, it the child can learn equally well in America, it is not so simple that he cannot leave Israel.
Thus, these are case-specific questions that we cannot generalize with a blanket ruling. In a particular situation, one should consult a Rav who has knowledge of the situation, in addition to halachic expertise.
Shiur ID: 4019