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It's Your Life

By Tzvi Fishman
3/9/2007, 12:00 AM
A college student from L.A. wrote our blog, saying that he wants to come on Aliyah, but that his parents are against it. He asked, whom he should listen to – his parents or his heart?

When I decided to make Aliyah, my Mother was very against it. One day, I returned home and found a note from my Father on the kitchen table saying that he had taken my Mother to the hospital with heart pains. I rushed to the emergency room at New York University Hospital and waited until a doctor appeared.

“Do you know what you are doing to your mother?” the young doctor asked me. “She is sick with worry that you are moving to Israel.”

“I am thirty years old,” I answered. “I have my own life to live.”

“I want to tell you something,” the doctor said. “Once upon a time, I wanted to move to Israel, but my mother was adamantly against it. I didn’t have the courage to do what I wanted. So here I am, still practicing medicine in New York. If you want to go to Israel – go. Don’t worry about your mother. She had some slight heart palpitations, that’s all. Her heart is a strong as a lion’s.”

Today, my Mother and Father live downstairs from me in the same building in Jerusalem. While Mom has her share of medical problems, after a year in Israel, she was able to give up all of the heart medications she had been taking for years in the States.

Regarding the college student’s question, I asked Rabbi David Samson for a halachic response, based on Jewish Law. Here is his answer:
Rabbi Kook told my friend that the greatest honor a child could bring to his parents was to live and learn Torah in Israel.


Once, when I was learning at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, a friend of mine wanted to meet the Rosh Yeshiva in order to ask him a question. He was studying for a year in Israel and he wanted to stay on for another year, but his worried parents wanted him to come home to America. He came to ask Rabbi Kook what he should do. Rav Tzvi Yehuda smiled at my friend and said, “You are over the age of bar mitzvah, aren’t you?”

Halachically, after citing a long list of instances where a child must obey his parents, the Shulchan Aruch cites four example cases where a child need not adhere to his parents demands:

1) When a son wants to learn Torah in a specific place and his parents refuse because the yeshiva is situated in a town filled with anti-Semitism. (1)
2) When the son wants to marry a certain girl and the parents don’t agree. (2)
3) When a child wants to pray in a different synagogue from his parents. (3)
4) When a Beit Din says a child cannot go to Israel because it is dangerous,
the child need not obey. (4)

In this last example, the Mabit explains that parents have to be honored even more than a Beit Din. And if parents try to prohibit a child from moving to Israel, the child need not listen. So therefore, the ruling of a Beit Din preventing a child’s aliyah cannot be enforced. (4)

In all of these cases, the parents cannot prevent their child from performing a mitzvah, whether it be learning Torah, marrying, praying, or moving to Israel. When a mitzvah is involved, a child need not listen to his parent’s opposition. This is because everyone is obligated to observe the commandments. (5) However, the Gaon of Vilna extends a child’s independence to all areas of life, not only where mitzvot are concerned. For instance, if a child wants to move to another town, or if he wants to become a farmer, or if he wants to buy a certain commodity, and his parents disapprove, the child need not listen. (8)

A child is to live his own life, and not the life of his parents. He is called upon to honor his parents in matters that directly affect their personal wellbeing, but when it comes to his own life, he is the captain of the ship. (8)

Rabbi Kook told my friend that the greatest honor a child could bring to his parents was to live and learn Torah in Israel.

1. Shulchan Oruch, Yoreh Deah, 250:25, in the name of the Trumat HaDeshen, 44.
2. Ibid, additions of the Rama, in the name of the Maharik, 167.
3. Ibid, Pitchei T’Shuva, 240:22.
4. Ibid, Even HaEzer, Pitchei T’Shuva, 75:6, in Meil Tzedaka, 24
5. Yevamot 6A. Baba Metzia 32A.
6. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, Beor HaGra, 240:36.
7. Responsa, Rabbi Yaacov Ariel, “In The Tent of Torah,” 6:2; and 10.