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Section: Questions   Category: Halacha
Halacha - Kibud Av
Submitted by anonymous  Answered by Rav Peretz Moncharsh
Question: My father treats me like dirt and yells at me and criticizes me a lot. What am I allowed to say to my father? Am I allowed to walk away when he is yelling/criticizing me? I don't think I (or anyone) deserve to be treated this way.

I have no way of judging if your father's behavior falls within the boundaries of parental discipline or verbal abuse, but even a child deserves to be treated with respect. Even if your father's behavior is totally unjustified, the Gemorrah relates the story of Dama ben Nesina whose mother (apparently deranged) would confront him even when he was seated with noblemen and tear his clothes and spit on him and he would not respond. The Rambam and Shulchan Aruch derive from this Gemorrah that Halacha obligates one to honor a parent even under extreme circumstances of abuse. However the Pele Yoetz observes that this can create an almost impossible, superhuman obligation on a child that he will inevitably transgress the prohibition of mistreating the abusive parent. Therefore, he recommends if the child is financially independent he should move away from home with the parent's permission.

Now I'm not going to recommend teenagers run away from home (and anyways he only allowed one to leave with the parents permission), but I think we can conclude that it is a good idea to limit interaction with an abusive parent as long as avoiding them will not itself cause more friction. Most importantly, you should daven to Hashem to help you overcome and grow from this very difficult situation, and you should ask a Rav who knows you and the situation personally for specific practical advice on how to deal with these challenges.

posted:2008-05-19 22:58:55

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