Wednesday, January 27, 2010

World of Geirim VII - Shidduchim Issues - Relationship with parents

Igros Moshe (Y.D. 2:130): 
Concerning a giyores whose non-Jewish mother is sick. Should she go to her mother with her children as her mother requests?

Concerning the matter of a giyores who has been following the appropriate Jewish practices and has kept a distance from her father and mother from the time that she has converted 20 years ago even though they live in the same city. But now her mother has fallen ill and requests that she come with her children to see her because she has a great longing to see her grandchildren . Even though the giyores knows that according to the Torah there is relationship anymore with her parents, nevertheless  she wants to know if it is appropriate because she has a very strong natural love to her parents and she wants to fulfill her mother's request at this  time of sickness. Her rabbi wants to permit it because of the concern that she might revert to her old ways as we see that there is such a concern regarding inheritance that a decree was made that a convert inherits his non-Jewish father because of this fear (Kiddushin 17).

Answer: I agree that the halacha is as her rabbi wrote that it can be permitted but because of logic. Because it is not clear that this fear for other things can be compared to loss of money because the desire for them is not so strong. However the more appropriate reason is that they might say that the laws of Torah are not correct if she is told not to go  and this is a very significant point by itself even without the concern that she might revert. We see this from the fact that the halacha is that we visit sick non-Jews for the sake of peace as well as sustain the poor non-Jews and bury their dead for the sake of peace (Gittin 61).... So it is obvious that she and her children would be going against the ways of peace of they don't visit her mother. So besides that factor the Rambam (Mamrim 5;11) states that it is prohibited for a ger to curse his non-Jewish father or hit him and not to shame him so that people won't say that the ger went from a higher religion to a lower one so he should at least not shame his father (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 241)... So if she doesn't go to visit her sick mother with her children it will cause the mother suffering and maybe it will drive her crazy. Thus we see it is an insult to the mother if she doesn't go and it is such pain that it is like hitting and cursing her. So therefore going to her mother is not only permitted but is obligatory to comply with the wishes of her mother to come and bring her children....

R' Akiva Eiger writes that this is part of human culture.... This mean that even though it is not an explict law of the Torah that a non-Jew must  honor his parents and therefore it is not an issue of coming from a higher religion to a low one nevertheless but since natural ethics requires honoring parents then it is also included in coming from a higher religion to a lower one. It is like the reason of chillul hashem if they should say that the Torah permits something that even a nonJewish knows is prohibited...

Therefore it appears in my opinion that it is like the prohibition against ingratitude that we find in agadata that G-d was very particular about this with Adam and also with the Jewish people. Therefore this is something prohibited which is the same between Jews and non-Jews... This is like we don't find explicit prohibitions on bad character traits even though they are disgusting and they incur punishment both for Jews and non-Jews....

We can conclude from this analysis that even if her mother wasn't sick it would be appropriate to go at infrequent occassions if it would appear as ingratitute if she didn't go. It is only to be with her parents on a regular basis that is prohibited even for her in order that she distance herself from them and not revert and it is surely prohibited for her children to go regularly because they might eat unkosher food. However now that her mother is sick -besides visiting for the sake of peace she is obligated to visit with her children to give some sort of honor to her mother and to avoid shaming her (Shulchan Aruch)
'... .


  1. And yet... this is not an issue for me, being that both of my parents are already dead but, no one wants to comment on that statement.

  2. :-[ Guess there's not much to say, but I'm sorry to hear that.

  3. There might be more comments if it were in English! :-)

  4. He's talking about a ruling that converts can't spend much time with their family, if any at all. There is discussion of a gyoress wanting to go to her mother's deathbed... I guess this was frowned upon but, permitted.

  5. "Frowned upon but permitted"? R. MF's opinion seems to be that it's morally obligatory. Moreover, R. MF's statement that "even if her mother wasn't sick it would be appropriate to go at infrequent occasions if it would appear as ingratitude if she didn't go" can be interpreted as stating that infrequent visits with children to a non-sick mother are morally obligatory. R. MF's reference to the APPEARANCE of ingratitude is odd, though. Wouldn't it be ACTUALLY ungrateful never to visit one's mother, and wouldn't this in itself suffice to make occasional visits morally obligatory, regardless of appearances?


    However, there are sources that state or imply that Noadchides are indeed commanded in kibbud av. R. Shmuel ben Chofni Gaon enumerates kibbud av as one of the mitzvot incumbent upon all mankind. He points out in his commentary on Bereishit 9:22 that Cham was cursed for not fulfilling this mitzva, and this proves that it is indeed an obligation and not merely a meritorious act.

    The Malbim also comments (Devarim 27:16) that, despite the fact that we do not find an explicit commandment that Noachides are required to fulfill kibbud av, they are enjoined from blasphemy. Since respect for parents is akin to respect for God (Kiddushin 32a), it follows that all mankind is required to honor their parents. Of course, this merely proves that no one is allowed to blaspheme or even show disrespect to parents. It does not prove that one is obligated to generate positive respect or to serve his parents.

    The Shulchan Arukh (Y.D. 241:9) rules that a convert is not allowed to shame or curse his parents, so that it should not be said that conversion leads to a reduction of moral behavior which would imply that a convert lessened his level of Holiness. Many commentators (R. Akiva Eiger, Beit Hillel, Yad Shaul, ad loc.) raise the question that since Noachides are not required to fulfill kibbud av, why would there seem to be a decrease in the level of proper behavior upon conversion? R. Akiva Eiger suggests that their own manner of deportment before conversion was to respect their parents. If, upon conversion, they would cease to do what is customary, it would present a problem. Yad Avraham points out that while Noachides are not commanded in kibbud av, the halakha here refers to the prohibition of cursing and shaming one's parents, which is mandatory for Noachides, as indicated by the story of Shem, Cham and Yefet.

    None of these commentators cites the Rambam (Hilkhot Mamrim 5:11), which seems to be the source of the Shulchan Arukh's ruling. The Rambam has an additional phrase, not cited in the Shulchan Arukh: "partial honor should be shown" to the parents of the convert. (However, there are variant texts quoted in the Frankel edition of the Rambam.)

    R. Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Y.D. II:130) deals with the concept of "partial honor" and suggests that all kibbud av is predicated upon the concept of gratitude, which is certainly a value incumbent upon all mankind. Despite the lack of an explicit commandment for Jews or Noachides to act morally or ethically, there are obvious moral obligations that apply to all mankind. While the laws of kibbud av which apply to Jews are specifically detailed, a Noachide must only show "partial honor" to demonstrate his gratitude to his parents. It may be added that the Yerushalmi (Pe'ah 1:1) says that kibbud av is actually repaying a debt (which would obviously apply to Noachides).

    In summary, there does not seem to be a specific requirement to honor Noachide parents. It certainly is a meritorious act to do so. It seems to be forbidden to disgrace or curse them. It is proper to show "partial honor," as it is an expression of gratitude or payment of a debt, which is a universal value.

  7. the Netziv is his haskoma to the Chofetz Chaim's Ahavas Chesed is apparently the only sources that says that there is a chiyuv to honor because of natural law

  8. Rav Nisim Gaon seems to also be a source of honoring parents because of natural law in his introduction to Shas

    "All the mitzvot that depend upon reason and the heart's understanding were already binding upon all men from the day that God created man on earth … Even though these mitzvot (= the seven commandments binding upon all the descendants of Noah) are derived from Scripture, as it is written, "And the Lord God commanded" – they are not merely received commandments, for the obligations to know God and obey and serve Him are fitting by way of the law of the intellect; and the shedding of innocent blood and stealing are forbidden by virtue of the path of reason." (Rav Nissim Gaon, introduction to Sefer Mafte'ach)

  9. We see from Rav Moshe's psak that under normal circumstances it is assur for a Ger to regularly visit his natural parents.

  10. We see from Rav Moshe's psak that under normal circumstances it is recommended for a Ger to irregularly visit his natural parents.

  11. "We see from Rav Moshe's psak that under normal circumstances it is assur for a Ger to regularly visit his natural parents."

    Does anyone know where the makor is for this din? Just wondering.

  12. One should have great love and compassion and perform many acts of kindness to someone, like a biological mother, who has done so much and given so much to you. Maybe this is natural law too? I don't know all the details of the mitzvah of ahavat habriot, loving all creation and all people, but I would assume such love is most appropriate and required when it comes to a loving parent in need of support.

    On the importance of loving all humanity, see Sefer Habris (II:13), Tomer Devorah (ch. 3), Mishnato Shel HaRav Kook, p. 306-07; R' Dovid Sears, Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition.

    "Be among the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving all creatures and bringing them closer to Torah." (Pirkei Avot).

  13. Benjamin - It isn't "recommended" by Rav Moshe. Rav Moshe uses the qualification "if it would appear as ingratitute if she didn't go". So obviously Rav Moshe doesn't assume it is always a form of ingratitude by definition. And if it isn't then it too would be prohibited.

    "it would be appropriate to go at infrequent occasions if it would appear as ingratitute if she didn't go."

    sb - The Igros Moshe (Y.D. 2:130) quoted in this post:

    It is only to be with her parents on a regular basis that is prohibited, even for her, in order that she distance herself from them

  14. Torah includes Natural LawJanuary 28, 2010 at 7:26 AM

    In discussing the destruction of Sodom, don't Chazal somewhere conclude (although probably not uncontroversially) that natural law enjoins man as powerfully as divine commandment? Sodom, after all, was chaiv misah for abandoning completely gemilus chasodim (no, not for gilui araiyos), and chesed is nowhere included in the Noachide Commandments, which consist merely of 7 lavin. Hence the Sodomites were to know not to be inhumanly cruel just by their naturally endowed rational sense and without having to be so admonished by G-d, and so much were they so enjoined that they incurred Divine Wrath just for failing in natural lawfulness.

    Could someone give me the source for this? I'm sorry I can't recall any further specifics....

  15. yeshaya said

    one could also add Rav Chaim Vital in Sharei Kedusha who says when it comes to MIDOS one should love ALL people

  16. Thanks, Anonymous. One can see an English translation of what you're referring to here:

  17. The Shelah HaKodesh also said that the "meaning of derech eretz love all creatures and be loved by them."

    Over 1000 years earlier, Derech Eretz Zuta said to "love all creatures and respect them."

  18. Joseph -
    Benjamin - It isn't "recommended" by Rav Moshe. Rav Moshe uses the qualification "if it would appear as ingratitute if she didn't go".

    Joseph - I think what Benjamin meant was the following:

    1) R' Moshe says that if a convert's not visiting his/her parentes would be seen by the parents as ingratitude, it would be appropriate for the convert to visit the parents infrequently.

    2) under normal circumstances, the convert's parents would view a convert's refusal to visit them as ingratitude


    It would be appropriate, under normal circumstances, for converts to infrequently visit their parents.


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