Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rav Sternbuch: Child's education vs honoring father?

Rav Sternbuch (Teshuvos v' Hanhagos 2:449): Question: A son wants to move to Israel but this will be detrimental to his father and he will lose the mitzva of honoring his parents. Answer: The mitzva of settling Israel is a dispute among poskim. Even though it is clearly a mitzva to dwell in the holy land of Israel, nevertheless some say it is only when the person is able to experience the holiness and thus is elevated by the experience. However someone who is not assured of spiritual elevation but just wants to go to Israel to be free of the burden of golus   - then going to Israel is not considered a mitzva according to this view. [see what I wrote in Teshuvos v' Hanhagos (1:900). However concerning the present case, we see in Kiddushin (31b) that living in Israel seems to be equal to the mitzva of honoring parents. In this case where the son is actively involved in honoring his father and wants to move to Israel - perhaps it is not correct because of the principle that one who is involved in doing a mitzva is exempt from doing another and thus it would be prohibited for him to leave his father. Furthermore in the present case where he already is involved in the mitzva of honoring his father he should continue doing it and therefore it would be prohibited for him to move to Israel and to stop the mitzva that he has already started.

However if he claims that in Israel he will be able to better raise his children in Torah then since there is nothing comparable to the mitzva of education children - then it would take precedence over honoring his parents. That is the Torah law because nothing is comparable to the education of children because their entire future is dependent upon it.

Therefore it is necessary to carefully investigate whether the parents truly need his help. In such a case it would be prohibited to leave them and stop the mitzva of honoring parents. It would be  prohibited in such a case to stop the mitzva for the sake of living in Israel. However if he must settle in Israel for the sake of educating his children - then he should definitely move because the mitzva of educating his children takes precedence because there is nothing comparable to it. In particular here in South Africa where the Chareidi education for either boys or girls is not as good as what he can get in Israel in the religious communities. (Look at V'Yoel Moshe of the Satmar Rebbe where he says astounding things in the name of major poskim that one should not leave a mitzva in order to settle in Israel. That means not to make aliyah  when it means nullifying even such mitzvos as providing hospitality to guests so surely not when it means nullifying honoring of parents.)

In contrast if the situation is that the parents are not dependent on him - but rather it is nicer for them that he live nearby but that they won't be overwhelmed if he leaves and they will quickly adapt to his absence - then he should move to Israel because of the superiority of education for his children compared to what South Africa has to offer. However this is only if he can find a proper community in Israel as well as a livelihood (See what I wrote in 1:900 on this topic). This is what I think the general rules are in this matter. In reality it is necessary for everyone who faces this decision to seek advice from gedolim and tzadikim and through their advice they will be successful.


  1. I received a totally different education as to the meaning of kibod av veim.

    If god gives us freewill how can someone take it away?

    4 in the morning here too tired to develop the approach now.
    But primarily deals with how you relate to parents. Have no obligation to obey what they say. Bchirat chofsheit.

  2. I hope this comment won't offend anybody.
    I'm wondering if the "halacha" quoted here is not in some way more about politics then halacha. After all it is based on the question whether it is a mitzvah to live in EY now a days or not. I believe there are conflicting opinions about this, and I do secretly feel that the issue of Zionisim has influenced some of our Gedolims' halachic decision in this mater.
    I wonder if there was no issue of Zionism, if the entire problem didn't exsist, would those Gedolim who question whether the Mitzvah of Yishuv EY applies today, still feel the same way about it? or perhaps the need to fight against Zionism has influenced their halachic perspective on this matter?

  3. "However someone who is not assured of spiritual elevation but just wants to go to Israel to be free of the burden of golus - then going to Israel is not considered a mitzva according to this view"

    This is the crux of the matter. That opinion is not at all Universally held. Do we tell someone not to keep shabbos if their intention is to have a "free psychological experience of refraining to do work" because they won't be keeping shabbos!

    I always thought Mitoch Shlo Lishmo Bo Lishmo.

    The Rav ז’ל had a different take. He never denied the Mitzvah and/or its value. He asked the individual to consider whether they were moving, and concomitant hole they would leave in their local Kehilla was comparable to the new influence they were to exert and exact while in Israel. Famously, his son in law, R' Aharon Lichtenstein did feel that he could achieve much if not more in Israel, and have the Mitzvah, and nobody could argue that he has been fantastically successful at doing so.

    The views espoused by V'Yoel Moshe are not mainstream anyway, and I claim that the vast majority of Jews (and poskim) do not find them binding in anyway.


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