Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review January 26, 2009 / 1 Shevat 5769

Painful Priorities II

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q. For years I have been supporting my aged mother, but now my business is failing and I just don't have the means. Do I have to risk my livelihood?


A. Last week we explained that the primary obligation of honoring parents is on the level of personal care and concern, and not financial support. However, there is definitely an obligation to provide financial support to a needy parent when the means exist.

First of all, a parent is considered a legitimate charity recipient. Indeed, poor family members are always given precedence in charity giving, and a person shouldn't be giving more than nominal charity to strangers when he has poor relatives. This is learned from the verse "When you lend money to My people, to the poor with you, don't be to him like a creditor, don't take interest." (Exodus 22:24)

The verse refers to helping a needy person through an interest-free loan, the preferred method for strangers, but as the context makes clear it applies equally to direct charity. The Talmud infers from the expression "the poor with you" that we give precedence to those needy individuals who are closest to us:

Your poor and the poor of your city, your poor have precedence. The poor of your city and the poor of another city, the poor of your city have precedence. (1)

The Torah prescribes a concentric circle of concern for others, with the center in your immediate family.

Another source is the verse from Isaiah (58:7), "Extend to the poor your bread, and bring downtrodden poor people into your home; when you see the naked clothe him, and don't hide from you own flesh." "Your own flesh" refers to your relatives; the verse admonishes us not to ignore them when we give charity.

We see from these sources that a person must support his needy parents if he has any spare money available for charity. Only after his parents are taken care of may he give charity funds to any other purpose.

Despite this obligation, our sages tell us that it is a bad idea to turn your parent into a charity case. This can be demeaning if it is not absolutely essential. After all, when you were growing up your parents probably did not "donate" the money for your needs; you were an integral part of the household and the household budget. Likewise, parents should be supported whenever possible from the regular household budget. The Tosefta (a collection of early Rabbinical sayings parallel to the mishna) states:

A father and his son . . . may give each other their poor tithes. Rebbe Yehuda said, a blight is worthy for someone who gives his poor tithe to his father. (1) Tosefta Maaser Sheni 4:7

From this we see that when a parent is in need of support, if the child or children are able to support him or her from the regular household budget, this is the proper and dignified way to help.

If the only way to find the means is to support the parent from the charity budget, then one's charity should go to help the parent as long as the parent is needy.

What you seem to describe is a situation where there is not enough income to support the parent even from charity funds - not enough income to give charity at all. As we explained last week, in such a case the child does not have to reach a precarious financial situation in order to support the parent. Even so, it is worth considering carefully if a small decline in standard of living is really "precarious" if that is the price for helping an aged parent. Think also of the example you are setting for your own children; perhaps you may need to rely on them in your later years.

Your custom until now of supporting your aged parent from your household income is a praiseworthy one, and this is the ideal way of helping a parent according to our tradition. If this becomes impossible, then charity funds should be used for this purpose. But if you are unable to help you parent and still make ends meet, then you are not required to put yourself in a precarious financial situation in order to help your parent.

Taking financial responsibility for a parent need not involve spending your own money. Even if you can't give money, you should devote effort to ensuring that your mother has adequate means of support, for example from government or private programs she might be eligible for. Any poor person, and especially an older one, has difficulty finding the physical and emotional energy needed to locate and apply for such programs. Your comparative youth and energy can be used for this purpose without any direct expense.

Finally, as we explained at length last week, even if you are unable to give financial support, you can still show your concern and love for your mother by personal attention and emotional support.


SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud Bava Metzia 71a

ARCHIVES

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.


JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

THE JEWISH ETHICIST, NOW IN BOOK FORM

You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
HARDCOVER
PAPERBACK
Sales help fund JWR.









© 2009, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics