Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 11 January 2014 / 10 Shevat 5774

Calculated Quip

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

From: Anthony

Dear Rabbi,

I have found Torah study to be very interesting and challenging. I have told my parents that I would like to take a year off from school in order to study in a yeshiva. They are opposed. They say that that as far as the Torah is concerned, I am required to honor their wishes. They also say that their opinion, being that of two people, outnumbers my one. What do you suggest I say to them?

Dear Anthony,

Obviously, your parents disagree not out of spite, but out of a sincere concern for your future. They want to see you professionally successful and financially self-supportive. I'm sure this is for good reason – they want you to be happy and to be able to support a family. That's all fine and they're right.

Perhaps serious thought should be given to postponing a year at yeshiva until after you graduate. In the meantime, you could learn at yeshiva during your summer and winter breaks, which could amount to close to year of study. If you feel it's urgent now, after acknowledging the validity of your parents' concerns, you should express to them why you nevertheless want to take a year off, and how that will benefit you in the long run.

Regarding your parents' point that you are required by Torah to honor their will not to learn Torah, this is technically incorrect. A person is required to honor his parents' wishes within the parameters of Torah. But if parents command one to transgress Torah, or to refrain from observing it, one is exempt from obeying them, since both he and they are obligated by the will of G-d, and His will takes precedence.

But since the paths of Torah are peaceful it shouldn't have to come to anything like that and I'm sure that with mutual respect, sensitivity and patience you should be able to find some mutually acceptable solution.

Your parents' point about your being outnumbered reminds me of a similar anecdote involving Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory. A father, mother and their son came before the rabbi with a similar story: The young man wanted to go to yeshiva, whereas the parents objected. The father cleverly cited the Torah teaching that there are three partners to a person – his father, mother and G-d. The father reasoned to Rabbi Feinstein, "I'm sure that as a rabbi representing G-d, your part would support our son's going to yeshiva. But you're only one third. Since my wife and I object, our parts outnumber yours."

The rabbi quickly quipped, "Your calculation is mistaken. Both you and your wife each have three parts, two of which oppose yeshiva, making four; but one of which, making two, support it. On the other hand, all three parts of me support it. That makes five for and four against. So in fact, it's you who are outnumbered in favor of your son's going to yeshiva…

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