A TorahTutors student explored the limits of comparisons and of obedience.
The Gemara (Bava Metzia 32a) notes a tradition that the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is on par with the responsibility to honor God. (This tradition is rooted in a comparison between the verses “Honor your father and mother” (Shemot 20:11) and “Honor God with your wealth” (Mishlei 3:9).) However, says the Gemara, if faced with a decision between the two – if one must choose between honoring God or honoring parents – they are not really equal. As Vayikra 19:3 states “Each person, his mother and his father you shall fear; and you shall keep my Shabbats; I am Hashem, your God” – i.e., one must treat one’s parents with appropriate reverence, but ultimately, it is Hashem who is God. Therefore, if one’s parents say to violate a mitzvah (for example, “Do not return that lost object!”), they should not be obeyed. After all, “you are all obligated in My honor,” explains the Gemara.
Of course, putting this directive into practice can be more complicated than it sounds. As with so many Talmudic passages, studying these lines helps develop textual skills while also sparking important thinking about broader issues.
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