Abimi, R. Abahu’s son, was particularly scrupulous in performing the mitzvah of honoring his father. Interestingly, his father is again asleep.
Rashi asks what is so special about Psalm 79? He explains that this Psalm really should be a lament to Asaf, for in it the Temple is defiled and destroyed. The darshan, however, explains the positive side—while the Temple is destroyed, the people were not all killed. God took God’s full wrath out on stones, and thereby a remnant of the people was saved.
R. Ya’akov b. Abahu’s parents honor him by pouring him wine even before he comes home. But can he accept such an honor? Abaye says that he may accept it from his mother, but not his father, for his father is also a Torah scholar. We can sense here the tension between the honor due a person because he is a scholar, and the honor due a person as a parent. R. Ya’akov is a scholar, and thus his parents honor him. But they are his parents, and he should honor them. The solution is that he may indeed accept this honor from them, but only if it does not at the same time dishonor his father as a scholar.
R. Tarfon helps his mother get in and out of bed (yup, he’s the Jewish Oedipus) and doing so leads him to think he’s really the greatest at honoring his parents. He thinks he’s so great at it, that he goes and brags in the Bet Midrash. There the other rabbis put him in his place—really honoring your mother means not shaming her when she acts crazy in public, even when she causes you a financial loss.
R. Joseph literally thinks his mother is like God. One of my sons was like this when he was little—wanted nothing to do with me. It’s gotten better since then, but he’s still not crying out “I will arise before the Shekhinah” when I come into the room. I’m lucky if he looks up from his screen.
This is really one of the saddest portions of the Talmud I know. Honoring one’s mother and father is so difficult that it is better not to have known them.
I should say that while honoring one’s mother and father is difficult (and has been difficult for me, more than I usually admit), I certainly am happy to have shared so many years with mine, and I hope that my children someday feel the same way about me.
Abaye here claims that he never knew his mother. But elsewhere he frequently quotes his mother. The claim is that she is not his mother, but his foster-mother, the one woman who raised him.
What a great and tragic story—R. Assi is being pursued by his overbearing mother, who wants to marry a man who looks just like her son (kind of sad). So he runs away to Eretz Yisrael, but she chases after him. He then wants to go greet her, maybe save her some of the difficulty of the travel. But now we have an opportunity to hear of the relative value of honoring one’s parents vis a vis remaining in the land of Israel. He gets permission to leave, but before he gets to her, his mother has died. And now he has lost out on both counts—he did not get to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his mother, and he left the land of Israel.
The relationship between parents and children is surely the most difficult relationship of many people’s lives.
Today’s sugya helps bring greater precision to what exactly it means to honor and fear on’es parents.
This baraita talks about how one honors one’s parents. Honoring means attributing credit to them in their lifetime and remembering them for a blessing in their death.
When quoting a tradition in the name of his father or teacher, a sage should not say his name. This is considered disrespectful. But when the meturgeman, sort of a loudspeaker who would say the sage’s words in a very loud voice, quotes the tradition he can say the sage’s father’s or teacher’s name.
This baraita outlines the difference between fearing and honoring one’s parents. I think that what the baraita defines as “fear” we would call “honor.” Tipping the scales refers to expressing an opinion that differs with one’s father. [I should note that there are plenty of cases in the Talmud where a rabbi does disagree with his father].
Honoring is essentially helping a parent materially—making sure they have food, drink, clothing and someone to help them when its hard for them to walk.
At the end of last week’s daf, we learned that honoring one’s parents means providing them with food and other forms of sustenance. The question now asked is-who pays for this—the child or the parent? If it is the parent, then honoring them means using their money to go and buy them the things they need. But if it is from the child, then the child must use his/her own resources.
The rabbis dispute who must pay, but ultimately the majority holds that the parent must use his own funds to provide for himself. I should note that this section assumes that both parties have resources.