Family, Parent & Child:
  Laws, Issues and Relationships
Selected Laws For Raising Children and For Honoring Parents











This compilation is partial and general. It is not intended to decide practical law for individual questions, which requires vast knowledge of the halachic material and of the methodology for deriving a p'sak (halachic decision). Your proper observance of these laws requires your thorough and detailed learning of the laws, and having access to a halacha (Torah law) authority.

This compendium will give you many major basics and will help you know when you have a shaalo (practical Torah law question). Actual specific questions must be brought by you on an individual, case by case, basis to an experienced and reputable orthodox rabbi who has the necessary knowledge and yiras Shomayim (fear of G-d) to give Torah instruction.

The laws of honoring and fearing parents require enormous restraint, maturity and strength of character. Through these laws, the Torah is, in essence, saying that, except for rare cases where the parent is dangerous or unbearable, the human personality can rise to the demands of the situation, override emotions and obstacles with gevurah (self-conquest, discipline), grow, cope, and fulfill the will of the Creator Who legislated these commandments and Who promised generous reward for their faithful, complete, devoted and good-natured fulfillment.

The Jew honors and fears parents because these are Hashem's will, not because doing so makes logical sense or it "seems fair" to have gratitude to parents. As with all mitzvos, our understanding is not what justifies or causes observance. All commandments are the will of the Creator and it is for our good to obey.

The Torah [Deuteronomy 5:16] tells us, "Honor your father and your mother as the L-rd your G-d commanded you in order that you lengthen your days and in order that it be well with you...". The Talmud [Kidushin 39b] says that this means that the reward for honoring parents is in the world to come. I have two kashyos [questions of seeming contradiction] on this.

1) We know that the world to come is eternal. The same gemora [Kidushin 39b] tells us that reward for mitzvos is essentially in the eternal world, not this temporary physical world. So, by definition, the reward for all mitzvos is eternal. When the Torah says that the reward for honoring parents is eternal, it seems to be saying something basic that we already know. What is the Torah telling us by saying the reward for honoring parents will be eternal?

2) The reward for all 613 of the Torah's mitzvos is eternal life, so the Torah seems to be adding nothing by saying that the reward for this particular mitzva is eternal life. If a person does all other mitzvos in the Torah, even if he neglects the domain of honoring parents, he will still be rewarded for his other mitzvos with eternal life [after being punished for his sins]. If one receives eternal reward for fulfilling all of the Torah's commandments, what is the Torah saying by specifically promising eternal reward for honoring parents?

I suggest that a midrash [Seder HaDoros 3:19] resolves our two kashyos beautifully and pulls everything together smoothly.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ailam was a holy sage. He received a message by ruach hakodesh [Divine inspiration] that Nanas the butcher would be his partner in the bliss of eternity. Rabbi Yehoshua was dismayed and sad. He said that he always works to fear Hashem, study His Torah, do His mitzvos and he raised 80 disciples who also became great sages. How could it be that a butcher who was ignorant in Torah and a plain working man be his partner in Gan Aiden? He had to get to the bottom of this puzzling mystery and find out who his future eternal partner is. He sent his disciples all over the land of Israel to search for Nanas the butcher. He was finally found, a simple man in a small and undistinguished town. He was told that the great sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ailam summoned him. Nanas figured that he could be no one of genuine interest to such a great sage and thought the disciples were only teasing him. He refused to go. Rabbi Yehoshua had to come to him.

When he saw Rabbi Yehoshua traveled to see him, he fell in front of him and begged forgiveness for forcing the sage to impose upon himself and come to him. Rabbi Yehoshua said, "Tell me what you do and with what do you occupy yourself?"

Nanas replied that he is a butcher and that he works as little as possible because he had two elderly and infirm parents who can neither stand up or manage on their own. Every day he dressed them, washed them, fed them and took complete care of them.

Rabbi Yehoshua stood up for Nanas, kissed him on the head and said that Nanas was fortunate to have such opportunity to honor his parents and that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ailam was fortunate to be the partner of Nanas in the eternal world.

The Torah's promise of eternal reward for honoring parents, at first, seems to refer to "duration." This midrash about Nanas the butcher is telling us that there is more to eternal life than its eternal duration. The eternal world is not so much a matter of aichuss [quantity]. It is a matter of kamuss [quality]. One's eternal reward is defined and characterized by much more than the number of mitzvos one does in life.

The Torah measures mitzvos different ways. Pirkei Avos [Chapter two] tells us that we cannot know the reward for a mitzva. But, we do know different mitzvos carrying varying degrees of weight. We have some indication of this by the level of reward or the severity of punishment stated by the Torah for its various requirements and prohibitions. We also know that the quality of one's attitude and intention contribute significantly to Heaven's calculation of and regard for any action we do or refrain from doing. Pirkei Avos [Chapter five] tells us that the reward corresponds to the pain or sacrifice that comes with obeying Hashem. One Rishone [major early authority], Rabainu Bachya, says that one's intention when doing a mitzva completely determines whether we have even fulfilled the mitzva. The gemora [Kidushin 31a] says that attitude can determine fulfillment of honoring parents: doing the mitzva in a nasty or begrudging way makes it a sin, while causing a parent hardship to save him or her from serious danger achieves the mitzva superbly. The Torah [Deuteronomy 28:47] tells us that one can receive the most brutal level of punishments from G-d for doing the entire Torah but doing so without happiness, a good attitude in the heart and appreciation for G-d's gifts. Many factors, often unknowable by human beings, go into Heaven's determination of the quality of any mitzva we do.

Correspondingly, the rewards in eternity have varying qualitative factors also; for example, one's location in Gan Aiden, one's partner in Gan Aiden, the degree of bliss, one's depth of spiritual sensitivity and insight, measure of eternal regret or anguish over the potentials one failed to achieve in earthly life, the extent to which one can enjoy the ziv haSh'china [glow of the Divine Presence], etc. We cannot know the eternal reward; but it can be impacted qualitatively, and even determined, by our doing of any mitzva and HOW we do it.

When the Torah says that one will have long and good reward for honoring parents, it seems to be saying that the quality of eternal reward for honoring parents is at the highest level; if the fulfillment, intent and attitude are proper.

This answers our two kashyos. Yes, 1) reward for all mitzvos is eternal, and 2) this applies for all of the 613 mitzvos; but the quality of GOOD and ETERNAL reward are extraordinary for the one who satisfies the exacting and demanding requirements and goals of the Torah's laws and ethics in the domain of honoring parents.

The selected compilations are based on law codes (Rambam, Arba Turim, Shulchan Aruch, Kitzur and Aruch HaShulchan), Gemara Kidushin 30b - 32a, Me'am Loez on Honoring Parents and cited miscellaneous sources.



A father must train his children in all mitzvos of Torah and rabbinic origin, according to the child's understanding level at each age. Parents may not excessively frighten children because this can lead to physical or emotional harm [masechta Smachos, chapter two]. Since every child has a different mind and personality, each parent should train each child according each child's individual way so that the child will retain the training, when he grows older, throughout his/her life [Proverbs 22:6]. There must be balance between firm discipline and loving nurturance, with the emphasis being on the latter [Sanhedrin 107b]. The mussar concept of "kibbutz roshmim (accumulation of mental impressions)" can be actively utilized by furnishing to the child recognition and praise for accomplishments, appreciation for good deeds, development of self-esteem, supportiveness, encouragement and emotional security.

In order that the child not become wild, brazen, troublesome, spoiled or unprincipled, physical punishment is necessary against misbehavior or chutzpa [brazenness, impudence] and discipline is a part of loving one's child [Proverbs 13:24]. Discipline should start with words, to the extent words are effective. Discipline should escalate to hitting only when words fail to be effective. It is preferable that hitting be with a light strap, the hit of which is instructive and not sadistic nor damaging. During the three weeks from the fast of the 17th of Tamuz to the fast of Tisha B'Av, we do not allow parents or teachers to hit children at all, even with a light strap [Be'er Haitiv to Orech Chayim 551:18], since this is a time of potential misfortune. One should never be angry, frightening or excited with children. One should pretend to be angry just enough for the effect necessary in disciplining children, but never actually be angry or emotional. Hitting must altogether stop when a child reaches bar or bas mitzva, when the child becomes old enough to be punishable in Torah law if (s)he hits the parent back. Hitting a child at such an age could cause the child to strike or to curse the parent. The parent would violate the Torah commandment, "Do not place a stumbling block [Leviticus 19:14]" by provoking the child into "stumbling" through sin.

Do not threaten, make burdensome demands nor behave abusively or indifferently towards children. Emotional neglect can be as damaging as emotional abuse. Do not make heavy demands on the child; and do not be very particular, strict or hard on the child to honor you. These are obstacles to the child's fulfillment of his mitzva and provoke violation of honor to parents. A parent sins when (s)he is the cause of his/her child's sin towards a parent.

Keep promises; reward and punish immediately so the child is trained to associate reward with good behavior and punishment with bad behavior. Never say the child is bad...say the behavior is bad; but do say that the child is good when his/her behavior is good.

It is important for the mother to reinforce the learning of Torah and the practice of chesed (active loving-kindness) in the child [Proverbs 31:26].

Parents are to inspire, to be role models for, and to promote an atmosphere of Torah, in the home - in spirit and in practice; and should encourage and reward learning, loving and obeying Torah.

The greatest praise and legacy for a Jewish parent is raising children who learn Torah and do good deeds, and thereby create Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of G-d), and thereby generate praise for the meritorious and successful upbringing that the parent gave to the child.

"Who is honored? The one who honors others [Pirkei Avos chapter four]. For parents to obtain spontaneous honor, they should (in accordance with the age and maturity of the child) show honor to their children enough to train the child in what honor is and feels like. In all midos (character traits and qualities), not only honor, a child "becomes" in accordance with what (s)he sees, how (s)he is made to feel and how (s)he is treated.

Hashem said, "And Avraham will indeed become a large and mighty nation and through him all blessing to the nations of the earth will come. I love him because he will command his children and his household after him to observe the ways of Hashem, that they practice generosity and justice, in order that Hashem bring to Avraham all that He spoke of [Genesis 18:18-19, based on Rashi and Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch].



Honoring parents is a mitzva which "one eats the fruits of in this world and the principal endures in the eternal world" (gemora Shabos 127a).

The Torah wants more than technical or mechanical fulfillment of Hashem's law; which is, of course, "bottom line" non-negotiable mandate.

It is mandatory to be exceedingly careful with honor and fear of one's mother and father. All the technical acts of honor or fear are not accomplished unless done with a pleasant attitude and facial expression.

If one must do something harsh for the parent's good, or to save him from something worse, the child must speak comfortingly and appeasingly "to the heart" of the parent and show how the intention is for the best.

Halacha generally considers equal 1. the mitzva to honor and the mitzva to fear, 2. the obligations towards father and mother, 3. the obligations towards parents and Hashem and 4. the obligations towards parents upon sons and non-married daughters.

Honor is fulfilled by providing food and drink, by clothing the parent, escorting the parent to and from places, never hitting nor drawing blood in any way (except a doctor saving a parent's life when there is no one else to do so), obeying the parent (when there is no Torah violation involved) and maintaining a cheerful and good-natured disposition with the parent.

If the parent is asleep, honor is achieved by not waking the parent except for something that the parent would want more than the sleep, or for an obligation upon the parent such as prayer at its proper time or charity to the hungry.

Honor is accomplished by promoting and preserving peace between one's father and mother, not referring to the parent by name (except when praying on behalf of the parent) and by bringing blessing on the parent during and after the parent's lifetime. One can refer to other people who have the same name as their parent if the name is common. People will not automatically understand the child as referring to his parent. If a parent has an uncommon name, the child may not even refer to others by that name. Halacha presumes that people might automatically understand the child to be referring to his own parent by name, which is considered dishonor of the parent.

One of the greatest achievements in honoring parents is for the child to grow up to behave so admirably and nobly that people spontaneously praise the parent who raised such a child.

The mitzvah to fear is fulfilled by not standing or sitting in the parent's appointed place, neither contradicting nor agreeing with the parent (because agreeing appears to say that the parent's word is not validated before being supported by the child), neither expressing anger towards nor ever cursing a parent and by not causing pain or shame for any reason. If a parent abuses, hurts or embarrasses the child, the child must remain silent. If the parent's treatment is truly unbearable or dangerous, the child can leave the room (or pick up and move away to another city, or only speak to the parent on the telephone or in large-crowd gatherings; so as to neutralize the threat, while not violating any halacha governing conduct towards parents).

When the fulfillment of obligations to the parent entails financial expense, the obligation is discharged by spending the parent's money. If parents do not have money and the child does, the child spends according to what the child can afford. If the child can afford to, (s)he should provide what the parent is used to. If the child cannot afford more, at the very least, (s)he should provide for the parent's basic necessities. If the child cannot afford more, the child should at least spend for parents the amount that the child is obligated to distribute to charity (maaser funds).

If a child sees his parent sinning, he does not tell the parent in statement form. If the parent is observant and knowledgeable, the child uses a gentle questioning approach: "Isn't the halacha A, the commandment B, the prohibition C?"

If the child is a ba'al tshuva (one who returned to Torah observance) whose parent[s] is [are] not observant, the child will do all that is humanly possible to keep peace with the parents, to not offend, to not alienate, to not be harsh or critical about Torah observance or lack of Torah observance. However, the child must also fully protect his/her Torah observance without compromise. The more good influence that the child can have on the parent's spirituality, the better. Even if the child cannot influence the parent to come closer to Torah, the child can create scenarios where the parent observes some laws. For example, the child can ask the parent to take him/her to a kosher restaurant, so the parent will eat a kosher meal. The child can "motzie" [include] the parent in birkas hamazone (blessings after eating), signalling to the parent with a hand when to say "amen." The child might make shabos in the house, if this can be done so the child can keep the laws of shabos satisfactorily. The parent can keep some shabos laws and hear some words of Torah.

If a parent damages or loses property of the child, the child may obtain payment through bais din (Torah court). Every Jew is liable for damage to any other Jew, including to one's own child.

Honoring parents is superseded by 1. adhering to the Torah (e.g. if a parent tells a child to sin or tries to set up any situation that brings a violation), 2. the child's right to learn Torah in the place that most benefits the child's learning, even if a parent is displeased, 3. the child's right to marry who the child chooses (including the right to reject marrying a person who the parent wants the child to marry), 4. the wife's obligation to her husband and to peace in her marriage and to caring for her children, 5. the well-being of the parent (such as an order by the parent that can bring harm to the parent e.g. the parent demands violation of his doctor's orders), 6. already being involved in certain mitzvos which need to be done at that time by the child him/herself (e.g. the funeral or burial of one who passed away with no known or available family to tend to the dead), 7. obligation to one's children or to marital peace and 8. the child living in the land of Israel (when a parent wants the child to live outside of Israel). For all practical questions, consult a knowledgeable and G-d-fearing rabbi for case-by-case Torah instruction.

Honoring parents includes honoring older siblings (even if only a sibling from one parent), grandparents, great-grandparents, a step-parent while married to a natural parent (it is meritorious to continue to honor the step-parent after the death of a natural parent) and for parents-in-law, when honoring parents-in-law is consistent with peace in the marriage.

A child should give as much honor as circumstances reasonably permit for a parent who is non-observant, immoral, destructive, violent, insane or the gentile parent of a convert. If the parent is difficult, the child may limit or discontinue contact with or exposure to the parent so as to protect his physical, emotional, mental or spiritual well-being. If the parent is dangerous or unbearable (abusive, deranged, overly demanding or critical, etc.) the child should appoint an agent to care for the needs of the parent and, then, move far enough away (e.g. out of town or to another country) so as to neither come to sin against the parent nor suffer damage from the parent (including mental, emotional, physical, spiritual or damage to property). It is a mitzva to protect every Jew - including oneself - from danger, illness or harm.

When children honor parents fittingly, Hashem considers it as if He is dwelling among them and they are honoring Him.