she persuades him with many statements of encouragement and does not treat him harshly. Therefore, in the mitzva of: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:11), the Holy One, Blessed be He, preceded the mention of the honor due one’s father before mentioning the honor due one’s mother. The verse emphasizes the duty that does not come naturally. Similarly, it is revealed and known before the One Who spoke and the world came into being that a son fears his father more than his mother, because his father teaches him Torah, and consequently he is strict with him. Therefore, in the verse: “A man shall fear his mother and his father” (Leviticus 19:3), the Holy One, Blessed be He, preceded the mention of fear of the mother before the mention of fear of the father.
A tanna taught a baraita before Rav Naḥman: When a person causes his father and mother suffering, the Holy One, Blessed be He, says: I did well in not dwelling among them, for if I had dwelled among them they would have caused Me suffering as well, as it were. Rabbi Yitzḥak says: Anyone who transgresses in private, it is considered as though he is pushing away the feet of the Divine Presence, i.e., he distances God from him, so to speak. As it is stated: “So says the Lord: The heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool” (Isaiah 66:1). When someone sins in secret, he demonstrates that he thinks God is absent from that place, and it is as though he pushes His feet away from the earth.
With regard to the same issue, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says: It is prohibited for a person to walk even four cubits with an upright posture, which is considered an arrogant manner, as it is stated: “The entire world is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). One who walks in an arrogant manner indicates a lack of regard for the glory and honor of God that is surrounding him, and thereby chases God from that place, as it were. The Gemara relates: Rav Huna, son of Rav Yehoshua, would not walk four cubits with an uncovered head. He said: The Divine Presence is above my head, and I must act respectfully.
The son of one widow asked Rabbi Eliezer: If my father says to me: Give me water to drink, and my mother also says to me: Give me water to drink, which of them should I honor first? Rabbi Eliezer said to him: Set aside the honor of your mother, and perform the honor of your father, as you and your mother are both obligated in the honor of your father. He came before Rabbi Yehoshua and asked him the same question, and Rabbi Yehoshua said this same answer to him.
The man said to him: My teacher, if one’s mother is divorced, what is the halakha? Rabbi Yehoshua said to him: From your eyelashes, which are filled with tears, it is evident that you are the son of a widow, and you have no father. Why, then, are you asking this question as though it were relevant for you? Consequently, Rabbi Yehoshua answered him sarcastically: Pour water for them into a pitcher and squawk at them as one does to summon chickens. In other words, if one’s mother is divorced, the same honor is due to both parents, and neither takes precedence.
§ Ulla the Great interpreted a verse homiletically at the entrance to the house of the Nasi. What is the meaning of that which is written: “All the kings of the earth shall give You thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of Your mouth” (Psalms 138:4)? It is not stated: The word of Your mouth, in the singular. Rather, the verse uses the expression: “The words of Your mouth,” in the plural. To what is this phrase referring? When the Holy One, Blessed be He, said: “I am the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:2), and, in the same verse: “You shall have no other gods before Me,” the nations of the world said: He teaches this for His own honor, as both statements entail respect for God.
Once He said: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:11), they returned and conceded the truth of the first statements, which is why the verse uses the plural expression: “Words of Your mouth,” i.e., all the words of God’s mouth. Rava said: This can be derived from here: “The beginning of Your word is truth” (Psalms 119:160). Is the beginning of Your word truth but not the end of Your word? Rather, from the end of Your word it is apparent to everyone that the beginning of Your word is truth.
The Sages raised a dilemma before Rav Ulla: How far must one go to fulfill the mitzva of honoring one’s father and mother? Rav Ulla said to them: Go and see what one gentile did in Ashkelon, and his name was Dama ben Netina. Once the Sages sought to purchase merchandise [perakmatya] from him for six hundred thousand gold dinars’ profit, but the key for the container in which the merchandise was kept was placed under his father’s head, and he was sleeping at the time. And Dama ben Netina would not disturb his father by waking him, although he could have made a substantial profit.
Rav Yehuda says that Shmuel says: They asked Rabbi Eliezer: How far must one go to fulfill the mitzva of honoring one’s father and mother? Rabbi Eliezer said to them: Go and see what one gentile did for his father in Ashkelon, and the name of the son was Dama ben Netina. Once the Sages wished to purchase precious stones from him for the ephod of the High Priest for six hundred thousand gold dinars’ profit, and Rav Kahana taught that it was eight hundred thousand gold dinars’ profit. And the key to the chest holding the jewels was placed under his father’s head, and he would not disturb him.
The next year the Holy One, Blessed be He, gave Dama ben Netina his reward, as a red heifer was born in his herd, and the Jews needed it. When the Sages of Israel came to him he said to them: I know, concerning you, that if I were to ask for all the money in the world you would give it to me. But I ask only that money that I lost due to the honor of Father.
And Rabbi Ḥanina says: And if this is related about one who is not commanded by the Torah to honor his father, as Dama was a gentile, and nevertheless when he performs the mitzva he is given this great reward, all the more so is one rewarded who is commanded to fulfill a mitzva and performs it. As Rabbi Ḥanina says: Greater is one who is commanded to do a mitzva and performs it than one who is not commanded to do a mitzva and performs it.
Rav Yosef, who was blind, said: At first I would say: If someone would tell me that the halakha is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, who says: A blind person is exempt from fulfilling the mitzvot, I would make a festive day for the rabbis, as I am not commanded and yet I perform the mitzvot. This means my reward is very great. Now that I have heard that which Rabbi Ḥanina says: Greater is one who is commanded to do a mitzva and performs it than one who is not commanded to do a mitzva and performs it, on the contrary: If someone would tell me that the halakha is not in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, and a blind person is obligated in mitzvot, I would make a festive day for the rabbis.
When Rav Dimi came from Eretz Yisrael to Babylonia, he said: Once Dama ben Netina was wearing a fine cloak [sirkon] of gold, and was sitting among the nobles of Rome. And his mother came to him and tore his garment from him and smacked him on the head and spat in his face, and yet he did not embarrass her.
Avimi, son of Rabbi Abbahu, taught: There is a type of son who feeds his father pheasant [pasyonei] and yet this behavior causes him to be removed from the World, i.e., the World-to-Come; and there is one who makes him grind with a millstone, which is difficult work,