Kibbud Av of Terach

By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld
Posted on 10/04/21

In Bereishis 11:32 the posuk tells us that Terach died in CharanRashi explains that the Torah first discusses Terach’s death before Avraham left so there should be no accusation that Avraham did not do the mitzvah of kibbud av during his father’s old age. The posuk calls Terach dead despite him being physically alive, as we know the rule is that a rasha is considered dead even when he is alive, whereas a tzaddik, even after physical death, is still considered alive.

Some question whether there is an obligation to be mechabed a father who is a rasha according to Rashi in Sanhedrin 47a. This is also the opinion of the Rema in Yoreh Deah 240:18 where he argues with the mechaber’s position that one is required to respect one’s father even though he is a rasha. Based on Rashi and the Rema one can question the need for the Torah to hide the fact that Avraham left before his father died. 

There are several answers to this question. The first answer is that the din that one is not obligated to be mechabed a father who is a rasha is from Meseches Bava Kama 94b that says that “a Nasi in your Nation you shall not curse.” The issur is only when he does maaseh amcha. This din came about only after Mattan Torah. Up until Mattan Torah one would have a chiyuv to be mechabed a father who is a rashaKibbud Av came before Mattan Torah, as we see Rachel Imeinu was punished for hiding her father’s idols. The Kerem Yosef on Megillah pg 515 argues with this position and says that a ben Noach is not mechuyav to be mechabed his father, on the other hand, he cannot cause a zilzulAvraham was makpid not to be mezalzel his father. The Torah therefore says that Terach died before telling us the story of Avraham leaving.

The second tirutz is based on what Rashi says in Bereishis 15:15 and is also brought in the medrash. We learn that Terach did teshuva, and in order for people not to be under the impression that Avraham was not mechabed his father despite his father doing teshuva, the Torah was meshaneh the story.

A third tirutz could be that since Terach did teshuva it comes out that lemafrea Avraham was mechuyav to show respect, so the Torah hid the fact by changing the order and saying that Terach died, and Avraham left afterward.

The fourth and final tirutz is that it was done because of maris ayin, but really Avraham was commanded to leave and therefore there was no chiyuv of kibbud av. The Maharal says the reason Avraham was not mechuyav is because he became a ger and therefore he is considered like a kotton shenolad, thereby having no connection to his biological father.

It is interesting to note that in the Torah we have three places where it says that an event happened in middle of the day. One is in Parshas Noach when it says the mabul started in middle of the day. The second one is during Yetzias Mitzrayim; the redemption took place in middle of the day, and the third case was when Moshe was niftar, the posuk tells us it was in middle of the day. The Medrash explains that during the time of Noach the people said they would not let him enter the teiva so Hashem said it will happen in middle of the day and the animals protected the Teiva. The same was said when they were leaving Mitzrayim when the Goyim said, “We will stop them,” and Hashem took them out in middle of the day. So too, when it came time for Moshe to die, Bnei Yisroel said, “We will stop it!” and Hashem took Moshe in middle of the day. The question is, how did Bnei Yisroel think they could stop Moshe from being niftar? The answer is that Klal Yisroel were confident that with their koach of tefillah they can stop Moshe from being niftar. We see from this how far tefillah can go. Part and parcel of the fabric of the world is tefillah.

May we all be zocheh to be mekayem kibbud av veaim with all the hiddurim and to daven and be listened to!