Parent-child relationships

Justine Wise Polier "This I Believe" Statement to Edward R. Murror, 1953

Freedom means many things to many people. From my earliest childhood I saw it through the eyes of my parents as both opportunity and challenge to do battle for those in bondage, to achieve freedom of the spirit and mind for one’s self and one’s fellow men. Blessed by parents whose deepest joy was through service to their fellow men, who were deeply moral without ever being self-righteous, who were profoundly religious and therefore not sanctimonious, I learned that love of mankind became meaningful only as it reflected understanding of and love of human beings. As an American Jew I have found that the great spiritual and moral traditional given to the world by the Hebrew Prophets have strengthened me in my quest for personal dignity and therefore in the struggle for the dignity of man and the freedom of mankind. The beauty and great traditions of my people as of my home have been sources of strength and inspiration in confronting the difficult problems faced by our generation in these troubled times. Rights Owner: Justine Wise Polier papers; Transcript. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. (Box 45, folder 564) Description: Justine Wise Polier, the daughter of Rabbi Stephen Wise, worked on behalf of the underprivileged and became the first female judge in New York City when she was appointed to the Children’s Court. In the 1950s she helped focus attention on the issue of de facto segregation in New York City schools. As part of broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow’s recurring “This I Believe” radio news segment, Justine Wise Polier discussed the beliefs that motivated her

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What is the relationship between this American Jew and her parents?

2. Does this relationship bear any resemblance to your relationship with your parents? 3. Can parents be symbolic of other relationships?

(ג) הַנּוֹתֵן לְבָנָיו וּבְנוֹתָיו הַגְדוֹלִים, שֶׁאֵינוֹ חַיָּב בִּמְזוֹנוֹתֵיהֶם, כְּדֵי לְלַמֵּד אֶת הַבָּנִים תּוֹרָה וּלְהַנְהִיג הַבָּנוֹת בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה, וְכֵן הַנּוֹתֵן מַתָּנוֹת לְאָבִיו וְהֵם צְרִיכִים לָהֶם, הֲרֵי זֶה בִּכְלַל צְדָקָה. וְלֹא עוֹד אֶלָא שֶׁצָּרִיךְ לְהַקְדִּימוֹ לַאֲחֵרִים. וַאֲפִלוּ אֵינוֹ בְּנוֹ וְלֹא אָבִיו, אֶלָא קְרוֹבוֹ, צָרִיךְ לְהַקְדִּימוֹ לְכָל אָדָם. וְאָחִיו מֵאָבִיו, קוֹדֵם לְאָחִיו מֵאִמּוֹ. וַעֲנִיֵּי בֵּיתוֹ קוֹדְמִין לַעֲנִיֵּי עִירוֹ, וַעֲנִיֵּי עִירוֹ קוֹדְמִין לַעֲנִיֵּי עִיר אַחֶרֶת.

וְיוֹשְׁבֵי אֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל קוֹדְמִין לְיוֹשְׁבֵי חוּצָה לָאָרֶץ. הַגָּה: פַּרְנָסַת עַצְמוֹ קוֹדֶמֶת לְכָל אָדָם, וְאֵינוֹ חַיָּב לָתֵת צְדָקָה עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ פַּרְנָסָתוֹ, וְאַחַר כָּךְ יַקְדִּים פַּרְנָסַת אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ, אִם הֵם עֲנִיִּים, וְהֵם קוֹדְמִים לְפַרְנָסַת בָּנָיו. וְאַחַר כָּךְ בָּנָיו, וְהֵם קוֹדְמִים לְאֶחָיו, וְהֵם קוֹדְמִים לִשְׁאָר קְרוֹבִים, וְהַקְּרוֹבִים קוֹדְמִים לִשְׁכֵנָיו, וּשְׁכֵנָיו לְאַנְשֵׁי עִירוֹ, וְאַנְשֵׁי עִירוֹ לְעִיר אַחֶרֶת. וְהוּא הַדִּין אִם הָיוּ שְׁבוּיִים וְצָרִיךְ לִפְדּוֹתָן. (הַכֹּל בַּטּוּר).

This is the language of the Rambam and the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch: One gives to their adult sons and daughters, even if one is not obligated to feed them, in order to teach them Torah and train them to act in a righteous manner. And similarly, if one gives a present to their parents and they need [the gift], this is in the category of tzedakah. Furthermore, one must prioritize their parents over other people, and this is true for [prioritizing] other relatives as well. Even if [the relative] is not your child, nor are you their parent, but just another relative, you must prioritize them before any other person. And your sibling from your father’s side precedes your sibling from your mother, and the poor of your house precede the poor of your city, and the poor of your city precede the poor of another city - until here are their words. And the poor of your city are those who reside in your city. Those poor who come to your city from another city - they are considered the poor of another city even though they are currently with you, but many disagree with this. [Translation by AJWS]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. How is this prioritization different from the last example?

2. Why does the Aruch HaShulchan add the last clause about the poor of another city that currently reside in your city? What does this contribute to our understand of hierarchies of giving?

3. What is the significance of the phrase "many disagree with this?"

-------- ARUCH HASHULCHAN 251:3 ---------------------------------------------- Translation Original The Tur wrote in the name of Rav Saadia Gaon: One is obligated to prioritize one’s own livelihood before any other person, and one is not obligated to give tzedakah until one has a livelihood, as it says “And your fellow shall live with you” - your life precedes the life of your fellow. And thus the Tzarfatit [widow] to Eliyahu “Prepare it for me and my son.” (Kings I, 17:12) And after you ensure your own livelihood, then you should prioritize the livelihood of your parents over your children, and then prioritize your children - until here are his words. And our rabbi the Rama (Rav Moshe Isserles) copied this and said “You prioritize your own life first,” etc. If your parents are poor, they precede the livelihood of your children, and your children precede your siblings, and they precede the rest of your relatives, and your relatives precede your neighbors, and your neighbors precede your townspeople, and your townspeople precede those of another city, and this is the law also if they are captives and you have to redeem them - until here are his words. [Translation by AJWS] כתב הטור שם רב סעדיה גאון חייב אדם להקדים פרנסתו לכל אדם ואינו חייב לתת צדקה עד שיהיה לו פרנסתו שנאמר וחי אחיך עמך חייך קודמין לחיי אחיך וכן אמרה הצרפית לאליהו ועשיתי לי ולבני תחלה ואח"כ לבני וכו' [מלכים א' יז, יב] ואחר שיפרנס נפשו יקדים פרנסת אביו ואמו לפרנסת בניו ואח"כ פרנסת בניו וכו' עכ"ל ורבינו הרמ"א העתיק זה וז"ל פרנסת עצמו וכו' אביו ואמו אם הם עניים והן קודמין לפרנסת בניו ואח"כ בניו והם קודמים לאחיו והם קודמים לשאר קרובים והקרובים קודמים לשכניו ושכניו לאנשי עירו ואנשי עירו לעיר אחרת וה"ה אם היו שבוים וצריך לפדותן עכ"ל .... Suggested Discussion Questions 1. Why should we prioritize our parents' survival over our children’s? Do you agree? 2. How does this hierarchy help us understand the nature of family and community in Rabbinic times? 3. Is this list of priorities still relevant today? Why or why not?

משרשי מצוה זו, שראוי לו לאדם שיכיר ויגמל חסד למי שעשה עמו טובה.

The essence of this commandment [to respect one's father and mother] is that one should recognize and do kindness to one who has done good to them. [Translation by Areyvut. Edited for gender neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What is the essence of the commandment to respect your parents?

2. What child-parent relationship does the commandment specify?

3. How can this text serve as a fundamental principle of ethical behavior? How can we expand its meaning?

וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּֽחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּחְיֶ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ.

Choose a life that you may live, you and your children. [JPS translation]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. In what ways do children learn from their parents' behaviors?

(טז) לֹֽא־יוּמְת֤וּ אָבוֹת֙ עַל־בָּנִ֔ים וּבָנִ֖ים לֹא־יוּמְת֣וּ עַל־אָב֑וֹת אִ֥יש בְּחֶטְא֖וֹ יוּמָֽתוּ.

Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents: a person shall be put to death only for his/her own crime. [JPS translation, edited for gender-neutrality]

Suggested Discussion Questions

1. What is the relationship between children and parents that is suggested by this Biblical text?

2. Are children and parents responsible for each other? In what ways? Will that change as you grow older? How?