Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Respect for Crazy Parents

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 24a) tells the famous story about Dama ben Nesinah. This non-Jewish gentleman's father owned a gem that was needed for the kohen gadol's Hoshen and when the rabbis came to purchase the gem his father was sleeping over the key to where the gem was kept. Even though the rabbis offered enormous amounts of money, Dama refused to wake his father to get the key. For this enormous sacrifice in order to fulfill the commandment of honoring one's father, Dama was eventually rewarded with great riches.

R. Yosef Viener (in this tape) quotes from R. Moshe Feinstein (I couldn't find it but I did not look very hard) that, clearly, Dama's father was a little crazy. What normal person would object to being woken up from a nap in order to make a huge profit on a sale? Despite the likelihood that Dama knew that it would be better for his father if he woke him up and received this huge sum of money, Dama was correct in honoring his father's irrational wish. Even irrational parents should be obeyed.

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