A baraita that we saw earlier seems to say that a person must honor his parents at personal cost. But what personal cost can there be if the parent pays for his own upkeep? The answer is personal loss of work time. If one needs to help one’s parents and by doing so he will lose time at work, he must nevertheless do so.
Every third and sixth year of the sabbatical cycle a Jew must give 10 per cent of his produce to the poor. But a son can give it to his poor father. The problem is that one should not be filling debts with the poor person’s tithe. So this would imply that feeding one’s father is not the responsibility of the son. This therefore is a difficulty on Rav Judah from above.
The resolution is that the son is giving him extra food from the poor tithe, not the basic amount he is obligated to give him by law.
R. Judah commented on this baraita, saying essentially that it is disgraceful to feed one’s father poor tithe. It looks like one really does not want to honor one’s father by taking care of him. But if the son is only giving the father extra food, then why should he be cursed for using poor tithe.
The answer is that even if its extra food, it is still disgraceful to use poor tithe to feed one’s father. People do not like to be treated as if they were poor and if the son has the means to feed his father without using his poor tithe, he should do so.
Today’s sugya continues the discuss of who pays for providing for the parent—the parent or the child.
As we have seen before, the height of honoring one’s parents means watching the parent throw away a purse of money into the sea and not shaming the parent. But if the parent has to pay for his own upkeep, then it really does not matter, because the financial loss is the parent’s loss. So its not such a great show of honor to not get angyr.
The answer is that it does matter—if the child will inherit the parent. In essence, the parent’s current loss is the future loss to the child.
This section does acknowledge an inherit tension between parents and children, one that still exists to this day. Currently, the parent’s assets belong to the parent and the parent can dispose of them at his/her will. However, this money will eventually go to the inheritor, usually the child, and if the child is taking care of the parent, and in some ways has authority over the parent’s money, the child may be hesitant to spend it, especially if he perceives the spending to be frivolous.
R. Huna tests his son to see if his son will be angry when R. Huna tears up his own property. R. Huna seems to want to see if his son cares for him, or only cares for his father’s property.
If Rabbah gets angry then R. Huna will have caused him to sin by dishonoring his parents, and it is against the Torah to try to incite another person to sin.
The answer is that R. Huna forgave his honor. I’m not really sure how this would work—if he tells Rabbah he is forgiving his honor, then the whole test won’t really work. And if he doesn’t tell him, then how is he forgiving his honor?
Again, the Talmud wonders how R. Huna could do this—isn’t it forbidden to needlessly destroy property
The answer is that he tore the garment at the seam, so it could be resewn.
But if he tore it at the seam, then it might not have been a good test. Maybe he didn’t get angry because he saw that no harm was done.
The answer is that Rabbah was already angry about something else. Once angry, he would not notice that the tear was at the seam.
I think we can see here that the Talmud is not comfortable with R. Huna’s test of his son.
Today’s sugya contains a halakhic discussion between R. Yehezkel and his sons, Rami and R. Judah. The issue is a passage from Sanhedrin about executed criminals who are mixed up with one another and the court does not know which execution to give them. [This is clearly a theoretical discussion, whose main point is moral—you can never give out a death penalty worse than the person deserves].
According to R. Shimon, burning is a more severe penalty than stoning. And since the court cannot give a condemned criminal a worse death penalty, they must all be executed by stoning.
R. Judah points out that if the majority are condemned to be stoned, then there would be two reasons to stone them and not burn them—1) It is a less severe penalty; 2) It is what the majority are to receive. Rather, he should change the order of the words—it is a few who are to be stoned who are mixed up with the majority that are to be burned. This helps isolate R. Shimon’s principle. Despite the fact that the majority should have been burned, they all must be stoned because it is prohibited to give a criminal a more severe penalty than he deserves.
R. Yehezkel responds—if you switch around the words such that the majority should have been burned, then the sages’ position has the same problem that R. Shimon’s statement had according to the original version. The sages think that stoning is the worse punishment and therefore they are all to be burned. But if the majority is those that should have been burned, then again, there are two reasons they all are burned.
R. Judah responds that in this line the rabbis are just responding to R. Shimon, disagreeing with him as to which punishment is more severe.
This is the end of the section about stoning and burning. The Talmud will now discuss how R. Yehezkel’s son interacted with him.
Shmuel rebukes R. Judah, whom he calls “toothy one” for speaking so directly to his father. One is allowed to tell one’s father that he has done something wrong—but he must say so in a very indirect manner, one that will not cause the father grief.
Today’s sugya talks about situations in which one might not be obligated to honor one’s parent.
The issue here is a conflict between honoring one’s parent and performing a mitzvah. According to the first opinion, since all Jews are obligated to perform mitzvoth, the son should first perform the mitzvah and then honor is father. But the second opinion looks at the issue more pragmatically—can both mitzvoth be accomplished. If the other mitzvah, for instance, such as burying the dead, can be performed by others, then he should let others do that mitzvah and he should help his father. Note there is still a hierarchy here, but if it is possible to avoid the conflict, the conflict should be avoided.
All rabbis agree that a parent can forgo his rights to his honor. But they argue about whether a rabbi can. R. Yitzchak argues that he cannot. A sage’s honor is due him because of the Torah he has learned—this Torah is not his and therefore he cannot forgo his honor.
R. Joseph argues through an analogy with God that a sage can forgo his honor. If God humbled God’s self by leading the people through the wilderness, then a sage too should be allowed to forgo his honor.
But Rava pushes back—God can forgo God’s honor because the world belongs to God. But the Torah does not belong to the sage. The sage cannot forgo the honor due him because the honor is not really due him—it is due to his Torah learning, which is not really his.