I saw something in shar habechinah from the chovos halevavos that he writes that people wouldnt honor theyre parents if not for shame, wondering why do people need shame to honor parents? And just in general if anyone has anything to Add on this idea?


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Firstly, to clarify a bit, the Chovos HaL'vavos (Sha'ar HaB'china) doesn't exactly say that nobody would honor their fathers, just that many people wouldn't ("כי רוב מבני אדם לא היו מכבדים את אבותם לולא הבושת כל שכן זולתם").

Secondly, the Chovos HaL'vavos isn't singling out honoring parents. This was stated in the context of many other good things a person could be motivated to do, or bad things a person could be motivated to avoid, due to embarrassment:

ואח״‎כ חשוב במדת הבושת אשר יחד בה האדם מה גדלה מעלתה ורבה תועלתה ותקנתה ולולא היא לא היו מאכסנים אכסנאי ולא מקיימים דבר ולא ממלאים משאל ולא גומלים חסד ומתרחקים מן הרע בשום דבר עד כי דברים רבים מדברי התורה עושים בעבור הבושת כי רוב מבני אדם לא היו מכבדים את אבותם לולא הבושת כ״‎ש זולתם ולא היו משיבין אבדה ולא נמנעין מעבירה כי כל אשר יעשה מכל אלה הדברים המגונים שזכרנו אינו עושה אותם אלא לאחר שיפשוט כסות הבושת מעליו כמ״‎ש הכתוב (ירמיה ו) גם בוש לא יבושו גם הכלים לא ידעו ואומר (צפניה ג׳:ה׳) ולא יודע עול בשת.

Sefaria translation:

Afterwards, reflect on the feeling of shame with which man alone has been endowed. How high is its value! How numerous are its uses and advantages. Were it not for this feeling, men would not show hospitality to strangers. They would not keep their promises, grant favors, show kindness, nor abstain from evil in any way.

Many precepts of the Torah are fulfilled only out of shame. A large number of people would not honor their parent if it were not for shame, and certainly would fail to show courtesy to others. They would not restore a lost article to its owner, nor refrain from any transgression. For whoever commits any of the disgraceful acts which we have mentioned, does so only when he has cast off the garment of shame. As Scripture said: "Yea they are not at all ashamed, neither know they how to blush" (Yirmiyahu 6:15), and "The sinner knows no shame" (Tzefania 3:5).

Thirdly, the Chovos HaL'vavos seems to specify honoring fathers, and perhaps this specificity is intentional. This calls to mind the teaching of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi about the greater tendency to honor one's mother than the tendency to honor one's father (Kiddushin 30b-31a):

תניא רבי אומר גלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שבן מכבד את אמו יותר מאביו מפני שמשדלתו בדברים לפיכך הקדים הקב"ה כיבוד אב לכיבוד אם וגלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שהבן מתיירא מאביו יותר מאמו מפני שמלמדו תורה לפיכך הקדים הקב"ה מורא האם למורא האב

Sefaria translation:

It is taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi says: It is revealed and known before the One Who spoke and the world came into being that a son honors his mother more than he honors his father, because she persuades him with many statements of encouragement and does not treat him harshly. Therefore, in the mitzva of: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:11), the Holy One, Blessed be He, preceded the mention of the honor due one’s father before mentioning the honor due one’s mother. The verse emphasizes the duty that does not come naturally.

Similarly, it is revealed and known before the One Who spoke and the world came into being that a son reveres his father more than his mother, because his father teaches him Torah. Therefore, in the verse: “A man shall fear his mother and his father” (Leviticus 19:3), the Holy One, Blessed be He, preceded the mention of reverence of the mother before the mention of reverence of the father. The verse emphasizes the duty that does not come naturally.

Hence, the motivation of avoiding embarrassment might play a greater role in a person's honor of his father, as opposed to a person's more natural inclination to bestow honor on his mother.

Finally, the following insight comes from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's Growth Through Torah (p. 190):

Bashfulness is a trait that many people today view as a fault and a problem to overcome. But as the Chovos Halvovos states in Shaar Habechinah: without bashfulness people would not do acts of kindness. At first glance, this might appear to be an extremely cynical statement. But I recall very clearly hearing this section from the late Rosh Hayeshiva of Telz, Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Katz, in a weekly mussar group he gave in his home. He added, "Someone recently asked me to do him a favor which I said I would do. But I didn't get to do it and he called me up last week to ask again. This time I took care of the matter right away. Why? Because I truly felt an obligation to do chesed? No. The real reason I did it right away was because I knew he would call me again, and I would feel embarrassed if I were to say that I didn't do it yet."

I remember my thoughts at the time. Here was our elderly Rosh Hayeshiva who was a great baal chesed, a lover of doing kindness, and he had the self-awareness to distinguish between what he did as a pure act of kindness and what he did out of embarrassment. He could have easily told the other person that he was so busy he would be unable to do the favor for him, but the sense of embarrassment motivated him to find the time in his busy schedule. I was also extremely impressed at this openness to us, his young students. Frequently, people feel that by admitting a normal human emotion they will be looked down upon by others. I can personally testify how this added to our already profound respect.

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