During a recent Pirkei Avot shi'ur in my synagogue, our rabbi discussed two concepts.

Jewish Virtual Library citing of Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin 31B

Our Rabbis taught: What is "revere" and what is "honor?" "Revere" means that the son must neither stand in his father's place nor sit in his place, nor contradict his words nor [even] support his words [when he is arguing with another sage]. "Honor" means that he must give him food and drink, clothe and cover him, lead him in and out.

Pirkei Avot chapter 5 (I think Mishnah 18? need to edit, later) states a person's lifetime "milestones" by stating that at age 18 one gets married, and at 20 he seeks work.

The rabbi made a conclusion from these 2 citings. He stated that according to the Talmud's teachings, a parent is obligated to support the children until age 20, after which the child is expected to be financially independent. Yes, he acknowledged that, among current Jewish religious society, there are numerous parents supporting their kids in yeshiva, Kolel, etc. but he pointed out that according to the Talmud, it seems that this is not the recommended method.

However, the 1st citing from Kiddushin seems to make clear that children are continuously obligated to financially support the parents, at least to the point where they must make sure that their parents are fed and clothed. This obligation never ends as long as the parents live.

My question:

If the child has only enough money to feed or clothe his own children or his parent, but not both, who gets the priority - the parent or his own children? Does it matter if his children are below or above age 20, per the above assumption? Are there any other criteria that would favor one priority over another, that I haven't mentioned?

  • See Yore Dea 240:5.
    – msh210
    Jun 17, 2016 at 17:14
  • Age of 20 if probably regarding the obligation to teach your son Torah which you can do also by supporting ($) him to learn, the mitzva is only until he knows the whole Torah at once (so after 5 years of Talmud he knows the whole Torah by 20) but to responsibility to feed him (nothing to do with the mitzvah of teaching him Torah is biblically until 6, rabbinicly until 13) some sources in comments below, I can bring the rest of the sources upon request
    – hazoriz
    Aug 17, 2016 at 18:12
  • Citing some sources would vastly improve this question. For example the obligation for parents to support children until age twenty. (Personally I am skeptical).
    – mevaqesh
    Oct 16, 2016 at 4:24
  • "giving food and drink, clothe and cover him" are acts of physical service, NOT financial giving. This is shown by the fact that they are both proceeded (all "revere" acts are refraining from physical actions) and followed by physical service (leading him in and out). The dichotomy you've setup doesn't seem to hold. Feb 13, 2017 at 14:16
  • Who's gonna be saved first in a disaster - one's parents or one's kids? I don't know.
    – Al Berko
    Aug 22, 2018 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


His children.

The Gemara shortly after the one you quoted makes note that one is not obligated to actively spend money in order to fulfill their chiyuv of kibbud av v'eim, and in the event that they do, they are entitled to reimbursement. While this would seem to indicate only that he takes precedence over his parents, and not his children, there's a Gemara in the third perek of Kiddushin (64b) that notes that personal chiyuvim take precedence over chiyuvim that others imposed upon him. Combining these two sugyos would seem to indicate, then, that a son should be able to feed his children, his personal chiyuv over which he must spend money, over his parents, who are not his personal chiyuv over which he must spend money.

  • Until what age does the father have the obligation to support his children, is it not after a certain age it is tzedoko, so will not the answer to the op be who is a closer relative whom you have to give tzedoko first a father vs a son
    – hazoriz
    Aug 17, 2016 at 3:51
  • I don't have the source in front of me, but I believe it's until the son doesn't live with the father. At that point, the son actually owns his possessions, and the father no longer has to support him. It's similar to a marriage in that respect - once the marriage dissolves, or at least the kesuva, the husband doesn't provide for the wife and the wife's income does not go to the husband.
    – DonielF
    Aug 17, 2016 at 15:37
  • You are probably reffuring to judaism.stackexchange.com/a/64925/5120 but the way I understand it is that while he is supporting his son he owns the sons things when he stops the son can own his own things, not that there is a responsibility to feed his son
    – hazoriz
    Aug 17, 2016 at 17:18
  • It seems your answer is right (children first), but See yd 251.3 sefaria.org/… and shach 251.4 there (that the age is 6 years old) beta.hebrewbooks.org/tursa.aspx?a=yd_x6724
    – hazoriz
    Aug 17, 2016 at 17:28
  • 1
    (Holy math Rebbe, sorry for the disrespect)
    – hazoriz
    Aug 17, 2016 at 18:02

This is not a Halachic answer, but some considerations:

  1. the [needy] parents are seemingly the first in Tzedakah - there's no other monetary obligation toward one's parents.

  2. THe monetary obligations toward the kids are not clear, whether they are Rabbinical rulings of indebtment or branches of Tzedakah and in which category of age and conditions (single/married, סמוכים על שלחנו, Torah scholars etc). In case of his wife, however, it is clear that he's "indebted" to her, but the kids are unclear - is he indebted to his kids or just a pure Tzedakah.

  3. Interestingly I couldn't find anybody linking the dispute to the beginning of the Torah, namely "עַל כֵּן יַעֲזָב אִישׁ אֶת אָבִיו וְאֶת אִמּוֹ; וְדָבַק בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ" - what does it mean practically, regarding כיבוד או"א and one's responsibilities.

  4. If we agree that supporting kids stems from Tzedakah also, given the rule "עניי עירך קודמים" I'm curious who are considered to be closer to a person - his parents or his kids.

  • This should either be a comment to the OP or a separate question. How is this an answer?
    – DonielF
    Aug 23, 2018 at 0:38

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