Tuesday, April 29, 2014

kibud av -- a bein adam laMakom din

Chazal explain that the juxtaposition of kibud av with shabbos at the beginning of Parshas Kedoshim teaches that if a parent asks you to violate shabbos you are not allowed to do so despite the mitzvah of kibud av.  The Meshech Chochma has a nice lomdus to explain the hava amina to think otherwise.  After all, fulfilling a mitzvah bein adam l’chaveiro is never license to violate any issur, so why would we think otherwise here?

The gemara (Yevamos 5) raises the possibility of learning from the fact that kibud av is not doche shabbos and from the fact that binyan mikdash is not doche shabbos that no mitzvas aseh is doche a lav that has a punishment of kareis.  The gemara, however, rejects this idea and concludes that the two cases of kibud av and binyan mikdash are exceptions to any rule because they are “hecsher mitzvah.”  What does the gemara mean by that?  Tosfos/Rashba explain that the gemara was speaking of the lav of mechameir, i.e. using an animal to transport goods on shabbos.  Aseh doche lo ta’aseh works only when the violation of the lav is simultaneous with the kiyum of the aseh.  The mitzvah of kibud av or binyan mikdash takes place only after the goods are delivered, not in the process of moving them.  Rashi explains that mechameir is not inevitably necessary to fulfill kibud av/binyan mikdash.  Had the goods been available, these mitzvos could have been fulfilled without violating mechameir.  The Meshech Chochma suggests a different distinction.  According to the M.C., the crucial difference between hechsher mitzvah and other mitzvos is whether the focus is on the act being done or the result being produced.  As we discussed once before, it seems from the Rambam that binyan mikdash was commanded in order for us to have a place to bring korbanos – the end result, the ability to do avodah, is what defines the mitzvah.  Moving a particular brick in place is just a means to that end.  Aseh doche lo ta’aseh may not work in this case because the individual act being done is not singificant in its own right, but is only a means.  So too when it comes to kibud av, the essential point of the mitzvah is to preserve the mesorah from one generation to the next.  How can we value the traditions and lessons of those who came before us if we do not have respect for them?  The particular act of kibud done is just a means to that larger goal.  Therefore, aseh doche lo ta’aseh does not come into play.

Once we define kibud av as a means to preserving the mesorah, it is no longer simply a bein adam l’chaveiro mitzvah, an enhanced “v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha” din, but is a bein adam laMakom din that is part and parcel of the transmission of Torah.

The Minchas Chinuch independently suggests the possibility that kibud av should be categorized as a bein adam laMakom din.  He writes that perhaps the obligation to a parent as a fellow human being is no greater than the “do no harm” of v’ahavta l’reiacha, and the additional obligations of kibud that go beyond that fall into the bein adam laMakom category.  The nafka minah is that one can get mechila for a bein adam l’chaveiro violation only by asking the other party for forgiveness.  When I saw this Minchas Chinuch what came to my mind was the fact that we say in our “al cheit” on Yom Kippur a request for forgiveness for “zilzul horim u’morim.”  The fact that we address this request to G-d seems to lend support to classifying kavod as a bein adam laMakom.  However, I think we throw in our “al cheit” other sins that seem to fall into the interpersonal aveirah bucket.  Perhaps the assumption is that we are asking G-d for forgiveness having already obtained forgiveness from the other person harmed.

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