Daf 31b continued

  • Rav Michael Siev


Introduction to the Study of Talmud
by Rav Michael Siev

Kiddushin 13

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We left off last week with the beraita that listed the obligations incumbent upon a child due to the mitzvot of mora and kibbud av va-em. We resume with the gemara's analysis of these obligations.

We are up to the last two words of 31b.

From whom?

Rav Yehuda said: from the son,

Rav Natan bar Oshaya said: from the father.


The Rabbis ruled for Rav Yirmiya,

and some say for the son of Rav Yirmiya

like the one who said from the father.


A challenge: It says, "Honor your father and your mother,"

and it says: "Honor God from (with) your wealth;"

just as later on with loss of money (lit., pocket), even here with loss of money.

And if you say from the father, what comes out from for [the son] (what has he lost)?

Loss of work.

משל מי?

רב יהודה אמר: משל בן,

רב נתן בר אושעיא אמר: משל אב.

אורו ליה רבנן לרב ירמיה,

ואמרי לה לבריה דרב ירמיה,

כמ"ד (=כמאן דאמר) משל אב.

מיתיבי: נאמר: כבד את אביך ואת אמך,

ונאמר: כבד את ה' מהונך;

מה להלן בחסרון כיס, אף כאן בחסרון כיס.

ואי אמרת משל אב, מאי נפקא ליה מיניה?

לביטול מלאכה.

The gemara here questions whether the obligation incumbent upon a child to perform certain services for his parents requires him to finance these services (mi-shel ben), or if the obligation includes only the effort involved while the financial responsibility rests with the parents (mi-shel av). The Rabbis ruled in accordance with the opinion of Rav Natan bar Oshaya, that the child need not spend his own money in order to fulfill the mitzva of honoring his parents.

The gemara challenges this ruling based on a comparison of the pasuk that obligates a child to honor his parents (Shemot 20:11) and the pasuk that urges everyone to honor God (Mishlei 3:9). The latter pasuk explicitly instructs people to use their fortunes to honor God; we should learn from this that the honor due one's parents should also require financial investment. However, if we assume like Rav Natan bar Oshaya, the child never actually has to spend his own money in order to honor his parents!

The attempt to derive the ramifications of honoring one's parents from the rules of honoring God sounds like it is based upon the similarity of the words involved; in both cases, the pasuk expresses the command with the imperative "kabbed" (honor). This would potentially fall under the category of a gezeira shava, an exegetical tool (derasha) which equates different contexts in which similar terms are employed. However, in this case the comparison is particularly appropriate: in last week's shiur, we briefly mentioned the fact that the gemara (30b) compares the roles of God and parents in the formation of man, and calls parents "partners" with God in this endeavor. That being the case, it is not inconceivable that the Halakha would establish comparable modes of honoring God and one's parents.

The gemara responds to the question by asserting that there is no contradiction between the derasha that compares honoring God and honoring parents and the ruling that kibbud av va-em is at the parents' expense. The child is not obligated to spend his own money in order to honor his parents, but he is obligated to take the time to care for them, even if this means that he will miss work. This will cost him an opportunity to earn money, and in that way honoring parents is comparable to honoring God. However, he may not, as Rav Natan bar Oshaya claims, be obligated to actually spend his own money.

Let us return to the gemara, which offers yet another challenge of Rav Natan bar Oshaya's ruling.

We are on the eighth line of 32a.

Come and listen:

Two brothers, two partners, the (=a) father and his son, the (=a) teacher and his student

redeem for each other the second tithe, and feed each other the tithe of the poor;

and if you say from the son,

this one (the son) is found to be paying his obligation from that which [belongs to] the poor!

No, it is needed - for the supplement.

If so, that which was stated on it (about this beraita)


R. Yehuda said: a curse shall come on one who feeds his father the tithe of the poor;

and if for the extra, what comes out from it (why is it so bad)?

Even so, the matter is disgraceful to him.

ת"ש (=תא שמע):

ב' אחים, שני שותפין, האב ובנו, הרב ותלמידו

פודין זה לזה מעשר שני, ומאכילין זה לזה מעשר עני;

ואי אמרת משל בן,

נמצא זה פורע חובו משל עניים!

לא צריכא - להעדפה.

אי הכי, היינו דקתני עלה,

אמר רבי יהודה: תבא מאירה למי שמאכיל את אביו מעשר עני;

ואי להעדפה, מאי נפקא מינה?

אפילו הכי זילא ביה מילתא.

The gemara here quotes a beraita regarding ma'aser sheni (the second tithe) and ma'aser ani (tithe of the poor). A short summary of the laws of tithing seems to be in order at this point. The Torah requires a Jewish farmer (in Eretz Yisrael) to separate a portion of his produce and give it to a kohen, an additional tenth of his produce (ma'aser rishon, the "first tithe") to give to a levi and yet an additional tithe, depending on the year. In the third and sixth years of the shemita cycle, this tithe is known as ma'aser ani and is distributed to the poor. In the other years, it is called ma'aser sheni and is taken to Jerusalem, where the farmer himself may eat the food.

With regard to ma'aser sheni, although one is required to bring the produce itself to Jerusalem for consumption, the produce may also be redeemed or sold for money (Devarim 14:22-27). In such a case, the sanctity inherent in the ma'aser sheni food is transferred to the money; one then brings the money to Jerusalem and uses it there to purchase food for consumption. This purchased food then attains the sanctity of ma'aser sheni and must be eaten in Jerusalem in a state of ritual purity.

If one redeems his ma'aser sheni food by selling it to someone else, the redemption takes place with money that matches the value of the food. However, if one redeems one's own ma'aser sheni food, one must add an additional fifth to the total cost of the food. The beraita teaches that if two partners, brothers or even a father and son would like to redeem their ma'aser sheni but avoid paying the extra fifth, they may redeem each other's ma'aser sheni, thus accomplishing the same end result as if each had redeemed his ma'aser sheni on his own.

Similarly, the beraita teaches that two partners, brothers or even a father and son, may exchange ma'aser ani if each is poor. In this fashion, each fulfills his obligation to separate and distribute ma'aser ani, but because they have exchanged these gifts with each other they have guaranteed that neither will lose any money. It is this detail that draws the gemara's attention. If the monetary obligations associated with kibbud av va-em are mi-shel ben, incumbent upon the son, how can he feed his father ma'aser ani? A son is halakhically obligated to provide for his father, and it should unacceptable for him to use ma'aser ani to fulfill this personal obligation!

The gemara explains that even according to the opinion that kibbud av is mi-shel ben, that refers only to the common, socially accepted standard of living. If one's father (or mother, of course) requires more than a common standard of living, the supplement is not considered to be part of the son's obligation of kibbud av va-em. Therefore, the son may use his ma'aser ani to provide this extra measure of sustenance to his parent. The gemara questions this interpretation: R. Yehuda adds to our beraita that although one is permitted to feed one's father food that is ma'aser ani, doing so is not respectful, and one who does so should be cursed. But if our beraita refers only to the "supplement," which one is not obligated halakhically to provide for one's father, why should such a person be cursed? The gemara answers that although it is permitted to feed one's father with ma'aser ani for the amount beyond the common standard of living, doing so is nevertheless disrespectful.  

Back to the Gemara

The gemara makes another attempt to disprove Rav Natan bar Oshaya's view. We are about a third of the way down on 32a, at the beginning of the line.

Come and listen:

They asked R. Eliezer: until where is the obligation of honoring one's parents?

He said to them: so (to the point) that he will take a wallet and throw it to the sea in his presence,

and he (the son) does not embarrass him.

And if you say from the son, what has gone out from him (=what has he lost)?

[The beraita discusses] one who is worthy of inheriting.

ת"ש (=תא שמע):

שאלו את ר"א (=רבי אליעזר): עד היכן כיבוד אב ואם?

אמר להם: כדי שיטול ארנקי ויזרקנו לים בפניו,

ואינו מכלימו.

ואי אמרת משל אב, מאי נפקא לי' מיניה?

בראוי ליורשו.

The beraita quoted here in the gemara brings the teaching of R. Eliezer, who ruled that the mitzva of kibbud av va-em requires that even if one's parent takes hold of a wallet and throws it into the sea, the child should not embarrass him.

The gemara uses this beraita as a third attempt to prove that a child is financially responsible for the obligations of kibbud av va-em. The prohibition of expressing anger toward and embarrassing one's parent stems from kibbud av va-em. If the parent bears financial responsibility for these obligations, the son does not stand to lose money when his father throws the wallet into the sea; why, then, should he get angry at all, such that the beraita has to emphasize that even in such circumstances one should not embarrass one's parents? The gemara answers that the son still stands to lose, in that his parents' financial stability affects him in the long run, as he will eventually inherit his parents.

Practically speaking, the Rishonim rule in accordance with the opinion of Rav Natan bar Oshaya, that the mitzva of kibbud av is mi-shel av, meaning that the parents bear financial responsibility for any activities associated with this mitzva. However, they add the caveat that if the parents do not have money, their children must care for them even when that entails financial support. There are different versions of this ruling:

1) Some Rishonim, including the Sefer Ha-chinukh (mitzva 33) rule that the financial support a child must give to his parents if the parents cannot support themselves is part of the mitzva of kibbud av va-em. According to those authorities, it seems that the whole disagreement mentioned in our gemara refers to a case in which the parents do have the ability to provide financially for the services they demand from their children.

2) Many Rishonim understood that the discussion in our gemara is about the rules of kibbud av va-em, irrespective of the financial status of the people involved. In their view, the obligation a child has to financially support his parents if they cannot support themselves is due to the mitzva of tzedaka, charity. Just as one is obligated to support any poor person one is obligated to support one's own parents. In fact, the rules of tzedaka dictate that one must consider the needs of those closest to him first; thus, one's own parents would take precedence over other poor people with regard to levels of priority in the distribution of tzedaka.

The Rash (R. Shimshon of Shantz, one of the Tosafists) attempts to support this view based on our gemara. The gemara attempted to prove that kibbud av is mi-shel ben based on a comparison between honoring God and honoring one's parents. The gemara was forced to answer that although one is not obligated to spend one's own money on kibbud av va-em, the comparison to honoring God still holds true because one may be forced to give up on opportunities for profit. However, if the mitzva of kibbud av va-em itself sometimes requires one to spend money, the gemara could have had a much better answer; that the comparison holds true in a literal sense if the parents cannot support themselves. From the fact that the gemara did not suggest this answer, we can conclude that the mitzva of kibbud av va-em in itself never requires a child to spend his own money.

There is an important practical difference between the two perspectives presented here. If the obligation is part of the mitzva of tzedaka, a child cannot be forced to spend more than he would generally have to spend on the mitzva of tzedaka. If, however, the obligation stems from kibbud av va-em, he may have to provide for his parents even above and beyond the limits of the mitzva of tzedaka.

The Shulchan Arukh (YD 240:5) rules that a child is obligated to financially support his parents within the boundaries of the mitzva of tzedaka. However, the Rama adds that if a child has the ability, he should not resort to using his tzedaka funds to support his parents, but rather should support them as he supports members of his own household.