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Standing Up For A Parent

Teshuvos V’hanhagos 276

Is there an obligation to stand up for parent as a sign of respect in today’s day and age?

It is noted in tractate Kiddushin (31b) that if you merely hear the sound of your mother’s voice, it should jar you to immediately stand up as you  would  for the Shechinah. This is brought down as halachah in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 240:7) and the Chayei Adam (87:7). One should stand up for a parent as he would for his Rav Muvhak, his intimate and most respected mentor. The halachah even specifies that this should be done twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. It is quite perplexing that nowadays this is not observed.

Indeed this is a serious oversight, as I shall explain.

At the root of the issue is the reasoning that parents waive their rights in this regard. It should be pointed out that while indeed they may do so, nonetheless you still fulfill a mitzvah by performing the action and standing up. Furthermore, there is a distinction to be made regarding the source of the parents’ behavior in relinquishing this expression of respect. One explanation is that parents indeed do not view it necessary to demonstrate this level of respect for them. The other is that they do not wish to impose on a child any activity that might be considered by children to be a burden. This rote act of “respect” is therefore not desirable. But there is a major fallacy in this reasoning, because the requirement to stand is due to reverence for the Almighty. It states: (Vayikra 19:32)                      

      מפני שיבה  תקום ויראת מאלקיך

Stand up for an elder and thereby demonstrate reverence for the Almighty. As the Rambam explains, the Torah equates reverence for the Almighty to Kibud Av V’Eim, as we see from the following verses:

תיראו ואביו אמו איש (Ibid. 19:3)

תירא אלקיך ה׳ את (Devarim 6:13, 10:20)

Furthermore, the action fosters overall respect for a parent. If parents waive their rights, they are waiving a fundamental Torah dictum and foregoing an important lesson in derech eretz.

This ought not to be viewed casually. The omission results in belittling the role of the parents in the family structure. Maintaining the practice would have a far-reaching impact in reducing the degree of recalcitrant behavior found today among children in many households and ameliorating the anguish parents experience from disobedient children.

To summarize: Granted, standing up for a parent is not typically practiced since parents waive their rights.   Should an offspring nonetheless stand up, it is a fulfillment of the mitzvah of kibbud av va’eim.

In fact, it should be done twice daily, as the halachah prescribes.

I have committed this point to writing since it is important, and I believe it ought not be abrogated. Standing up also fosters yiras Shamayim. To realistically implement the practice, however, it needs to be introduced when children are toddlers.

Once instituted, children will have the opportunity and benefit of fulfilling a mitzvah every time it is performed.

- By HaGaon HaRav Moshe Sternbuch shlita

An excerpt from soon to be released book You Are Your Parents’ Keeper: Hashkafic and Halachik Insights into Elder Care and Kibbud Av  Va’Eim  by  Rabbi Reuven G. Becker.

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