Readers Sound Off
Condition Them When They’re Young
I read with interest the column about adult children who have cut off ties with their parents. I have friends who are unfortunately in this situation. I am wondering if this phenomenon stems from a lack of kibbud av v’eim that began when the children were very young, and continued on as they got older. I have noticed that children as young as five will talk to their parents in a disrespectful manner, with the parent doing nothing about it. This gives the child a message that it is okay to talk this way, and he will most probably continue to do so in the future.
Parents should not be tyrants when it comes to the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim, but I believe that it is their responsibility to explain to children – of all ages – that this is one of the Ten Commandments and must be adhered to just like the other nine. Perhaps if this mitzvah is instilled and reinforced from a young age, we would have less of this tragedy occurring among us. Of course it is important for people to know exactly what this mitzvah entails.
There is a wonderful book published by ArtScroll called My Father, My Mother, and Me by Yehudis Samet. It explains the laws of this commandment in both an informative and entertaining way. There are numerous true stories of how adult children relate to their parents under different circumstances. It is not the type of book that you can gift to your adult children, because they may take it the wrong way, but some adult children reading this column would perhaps purchase it on their own.
In one chapter, the author explains one of the reasons we are rewarded with length of days for keeping the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim. She says that some children wish they would have had different parents, but despite their disappointment they realize that since their parents gave them life, they owe them kavod for that alone. So Hashem reciprocates midah keneged midah: “You have shown Me how much you value life – I will reward you with more” (based on the Abarbanel).
She further explains that the wording – “your days will be lengthened” and not “I (Hashem) will lengthen” (Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh) – demonstrates that it is up to us to gain this reward. It does not come automatically. If we properly care for our parents, we lengthen their days – and in turn we are rewarded with length of days.
In the last chapter, the author says that if we want our children to respect us when we are older, we need to respect our own parents. And we need our children to see with their own eyes that we are doing so – “hosting, visiting, calling, rising, not contradicting, showing gratitude, and the many other facets of this mitzvah. Nowadays we complain that children are ungrateful. Are we sufficiently grateful?”
May the day come when all parents and their adult children will have shalom bayit!
Praying for peace
If You Have No Self-control, Stay Away (And Miss Out On A Mitzvah)
Regarding the issue of respecting one’s parents and the lack thereof, I think it’s most unfortunate when adult children hurt their parents by ignoring them. Yet it must be said that there are many parents who unwittingly push their children away from them with their heavy handedness. These parents often can’t accept that their young ones have grown, are no longer under their care and have a right to make decisions on their own.
Some parents heap nothing but criticism on their married children (probably did the same when their children were younger) and then wonder why they don’t hear from them for weeks on end. As your writer the other week said, better to stay away than to behave disrespectfully toward a parent who gets under your skin.
Been that route
Telling It Like It Is
On behalf of the G-d fearing amongst us, those who live life according to Torah guidelines, I must come to the defense of Jewish children all over the globe. Anyone not familiar with “our kind” who have been reading the Chronicles column of late might come to the conclusion that we are a heartless lot who don’t care about our elders – when, in fact, quite the opposite happens to be fact.
In numerous households Bubby and/or Zeidy are part of the immediate family living in their children’s homes, surrounded by einiklach who dote on them.
Tour a Jewish nursing home or assisted-living facility and you will find frum teenaged boys and girls, as well as adults, visiting the lonely elderly whom no one else cares about.
In our community, shunning a parent is the exception rather than the rule. I do hope that the daughters of that heartbroken father who wrote recognize that blood is thicker than water, and that continuing to hold a grudge will hurt them in the long run. Their own children may end up resenting them one day and they will be made to taste the bitterness of a lonely old age.
Just for the record
About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.