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Weekly Halacha

Selected Halachos Related to Parshas Yisro

By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.

Honor your father and your mother...(20:12)


The sensitivity that one must have in performing the mitzvah of kibud av v'eim, honoring one's parents, is expressed in our Sages' comment on the verse quoted above. The Rabbis(1) criticize Yosef for not objecting to hearing his revered father described as "your servant, our father." Even though Yosef was not at liberty to reveal his identity at the time, he is nevertheless faulted for not being offended by the desecration of his father's honor. This teaches us that it is not enough to merely honor and fear one's parents in their presence. Even when they are not physically present, we are commanded to see that their honor is not compromised in any way. Let us explain:

There are two major categories under which the halachos of conduct towards parents are subsumed: kibud, honoring them, and mora, revering them.


Kibud is accomplished in three different ways: Through the children's thoughts - children are supposed to view their parents as being honorable and respected people - even if they are not considered as such in the eyes of others. This attitudinal aspect of the mitzvah is the main part of kibud(2); Through the children's actions - this includes feeding, dressing and escorting them, and generally assisting them in all of their needs as a servant would do for his master. These actions must be done b'sever panim yafos, pleasantly and enthusiastically. The manner in which one assists parents is a crucial aspect of the mitzvah(3). Even if the child is in the midst of learning Torah, he must stop to assist his parents(4). Through the children's speech - e.g., when a child is honored, he should credit his parents for the honor bestowed upon him. When a child asks others to grant his request or to do him a favor, he should not request it in his own merit, but rather, in the merit of his father or mother [when applicable](5).

Parents may excuse their children from the mitzvah of kibud(6). In fact, it is advisable for them to do so. A parent who constantly exacts respect from his children will surely cause his children to be punished on his account(7). Consequently, although according to the halachah(8) a child should stand up when a parent enters(9) the room(10), in practice this halachah is not widely observed. It is safe to assume that most parents excuse their children from demonstrating this honor towards them(11), and since they do, the children are not obligated(12). It is recommended, though, that children ask their parents explicitly if they excuse them from demonstrating this kibud(13).

Reciting Kaddish after a parent's death falls into the category of kibud(14). Consequently, a parent may excuse his child from saying Kaddish after his passing(15).


The second category of the halachos governing the conduct of children to parents is mora, reverence, or fear. It means that one should act towards his parents as he would towards a sovereign with the power to punish those who treat him disrespectfully(16). Specifically, this commandment prohibits a child from sitting in his parents' set places at home or in shul, interrupting them, contradicting them [in an abrupt or disrespectful manner] and calling them by their first names(17).

Most poskim maintain that parents may also excuse their children from the mitzvah of mora(18). Consequently, it has become customary that children sit in their father's place in shul, since parents are not particular about this show of respect(19).

Parents may not, however, allow themselves to be degraded, hit or cursed by their children. Those actions are not excusable(20).

Even if a parent is, G-d forbid, insane and has embarrassed the child in public, it is nevertheless forbidden for the child to shame or degrade the parent(21). One may, however, take steps to ensure that his parents are not publicly embarrassed [e.g., one may arrange to have others bar the parents from a public gathering, etc.(22)].

When an elderly father lives with his son, the son is not required to give up his seat at the head of the table(23), although the custom in many homes is to do so(24). In any case, the son must allow his father to wash his hands first and to be served first(25), etc.

A son should preferably not daven Shemoneh Esrei within four amos [approximately eight feet] of his father(26).

If her husband objects, a married woman is not required to honor her parents. She is, however, obligated to revere them and to avoid demeaning them(27).


1 Sotah 13b.

2 Chayei Adam 67:3. See explanation in Sichos Mussar (5731, Ma'amar 22).

3 Y.D. 240:4.

4 Pischei Teshuvah 240:8; Harav S.Z. Auerbach (oral ruling quoted in Kibud v'Yiras Horim K'hilchasam, pg. 25).

5 Y.D. 240:5; Chayei Adam 67:5.

6 The parents may change their mind and revoke their exemption - Maharam Shick Y.D. 218.

7 Y.D. 240:19. See Alei Shur pg. 261 for elaboration.

8 This is a Biblical obligation ? Rosh Kiddushin 1:57. There are various views in the poskim as to how many times per day this obligation applies ? see Chayei Adam 67:7; Aruch ha-Shulchan 24; Shevet ha-Levi 1:111-4; Avnei Yashfei 1:185.

9 According to some poskim, the obligation to stand up for a parent begins when the child hears their footsteps ??see Gilyon Maharsha Y.D. 240:7 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 240:24. Other poskim rule that the obligation begins only when seeing them ??see Chayei Adam 67:7; Chazon Ish Y.D. 149:10.

10 Y.D. 240:7. This is an obligation of kibud ??Aruch ha-Shulchan 240:24; Chazon Ish Y.D. 149:4; Gesher ha-Chayim 20:9.

11 See Sefer Chasidim 152 and 339.

12 Even when parents have exempted their children from honoring them, if the children honor them they are fulfilling a mitzvah ??R' Akiva Eiger and Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 240:16.

13 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv, quoted in Avnei Yashfei 1:185 and in Mora ha-Horim v'Kibudam pg. 49.

14 Chayei Adam 67:6.

15 Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 344:1.

16 Rambam, Sefer ha-Mitzvos 211.

17 Y.D. 240:2.

18 Birkei Yosef 240:13. See also Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:133.

19 Aruch ha-Shulchan 240:9.

20 Teshuvos Rivash 220; Meishiv Davar 2:50. See Minchas Shelomo 32.

21 Y.D. 240:8-10.

22 Aruch ha-Shulchan 240:32. See Tzitz Eliezer 12:59.

23 Aruch ha-Shulchan 240:11.

24 She'arim ha-Metzuyanim B'halachah 143:2. Harav S.Z. Auerbach, Harav S.Y. Elyashiv and Harav C.P. Scheinberg are quoted (Mora ha-Horim v'Kibudam, pg. 19; Kibud v'Yiras Horim K'hilchasam, pg. 62) as ruling that it is proper for the son to offer his seat to his father. If the father declines, then the son may sit there.

25 Aruch ha-Shulchan 240:11; Harav S.Y. Elyashiv and Harav B.Z. Abba Shaul (oral ruling quoted in Mora ha-Horim v'Kibudam, pg. 19).

26 O.C. 90:24 and Mishnah Berurah 73, 77, 78. See Beiur Halachah there.

27 Y.D. 240:17, Shach 19 and Aruch ha-Shulchan 38. See, however, Tzitz Eliezer 16:28.

Weekly-Halacha, Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Neustadt, Dr. Jeffrey Gross and Project Genesis, Inc.

Rabbi Neustadt is the principal of Yavne Teachers' College in Cleveland, Ohio. He is also the Magid Shiur of a daily Mishna Berurah class at Congregation Shomre Shabbos.

The Weekly-Halacha Series is distributed L'zchus Hayeled Doniel Meir ben Hinda. Weekly sponsorships are available--please send email to the moderator, Dr. Jeffrey Gross

The series is distributed by the Harbotzas Torah Division of Congregation Shomre Shabbos, 1801 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118--HaRav Yisroel Grumer, Marah D'Asra



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