Dear Dr. Yael,
I unfortunately lost my wife three years ago. She suffered from cancer for many years. I am also unwell and cannot work full time anymore. Because of all the hospital bills from years of dealing with my wife’s illness, I am struggling financially. My wife and I had two wonderful boys. They are both, baruch Hashem, married with children. They were both very close to my wife. My older son is very wealthy and my younger son is in chinuch. My older son generously supports his younger brother and is also very generous monetarily to me. Both my sons, baruch Hashem are frum and have good marriages. While my older son helps me financially, my younger son is a huge support emotionally. I alternate Shabbosim by both my sons. Both my daughters-in-law are amazing.
I am writing because of an issue that I’m having with my older son. Although he supports me financially, he lacks derech eretz. His wife is amazing, but my son is very impatient with me. He is close to his Rav, whom I think he also supports financially. I feel uncomfortable speaking to his Rav because I do not want to cause my son any embarrassment and I also feel there is a power imbalance there. My older son often gets angry and impatient with me when I am slow. He is very generous financially, but he has serious problems with anger. I am afraid to hurt our relationship, but I also feel that this cannot continue. What should I do?
A Widower in Pain
Dear A Widower in Pain,
There is a story told about two different sons with two different fathers. The rich son gave his father pheasant, (a delicacy at the time] but said “Here old man, eat,” while the poor son needed his father to work the fields, but apologized to his father and treated his father with the greatest derech eretz. The rich son did not merit Gan Eden. The poor son did merit Gan Eden. This seems absurd as the younger son made his father work while the older son took care of his father completely. However, the respect that the younger son showed his father was greater than anything else the older son could have done physically for his father.
It appears that you are afraid of your own child. However, by doing nothing, you are hurting your son’s ability to merit Olam HaBa. I think that it may be prudent for you to speak to another, impartial Rav that you both respect. It seems that your son does listen to daas Torah. He must admit that he has a problem with anger and go for help. You cannot live in fear of your son because he helps you financially. He has the same chiyuv in kibud av v’em like any other person and you will be helping him by guiding him to find the appropriate help. Because you are risking your relationship with your son, you must go about this very carefully. Perhaps you can try talking to your son first, before speaking to any rabbanim. Maybe you can tell your son how much you love him and how grateful you are for all that he does, but that you are sensitive and need him to be more patient and calm with you. Ask your son if he would be willing to go for help to repair your relationship. If you don’t see any change from this conversation, then that may be a good time to speak to an impartial Rav. Hatzlacha in this challenging situation!