Honoring Parents Who Are Abusive?
© (2003) Benzion Sorotzkin, Psy.D.
- The halacha is that the parent has to bear the financial burden of the son's fulfillment of the mitzvah of kibbud av va'eim (e.g., the son has to prepare and serve the food for his father but the father pays for the food). If the child is not required to undergo a financial loss then he certainly does not have to endure personal suffering by not marrying the women of his choice.
- We see in many places in the Talmud that the Rabbis are concerned that a wife find favor in her husbands eyes so that they have a good marriage. By trying to force his son to forgo his choice in a wife it is as if the father is ordering his son to go against the Torah since he is not likely to have a good relationship with a choice forced upon him. [One can perhaps likewise argue that abused children frequently rebel against their parent's religious beliefs, or develop serious emotional disorders, neither of which is desired by our Rabbis].
- The Maharik rules [and this is the normative halacha] that the obligation to honor parents applies only when the parent asks for something that benefits the parent directly. The obligation does not require obeying commands that do not directly benefit the parents, for example, whom the child marries.
Response from Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP