Ethics

For the week ending 5 April 2008 / 29 Adar II 5768

Who Gets the Drink?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: I recall learning in the Talmud that if my father asks me to bring him a drink of water and my mother asks me to do the same for her, I must give precedence to my father because my mother is obligated to honor her husband in this manner. A situation once arose where my father asked me to bring a drink for my mother and my mother asked me to bring a drink for my father. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: How wonderful to hear of a case where each parent is more concerned about the other than about him/herself!

In his new work "Borchi Nafshi", Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein writes that this very interesting question was once put to his brother-in-law, Hagaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky. Although it might seem on the surface that you must first serve your father as in the Talmudic case, the ruling in his case is that you must obey your father and bring that first drink to your mother.

The logic behind this is the Talmudic dictum that "the fulfillment of a person's wish is the greatest honor one can give him." Fulfilling your father's wish is a greater honor for him than the drink and you must therefore obey him and make both parents very happy.

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