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This question is pretty straightforward but I'll and explain it in a more detailed way.

A Jewish man has a mother who is abusive. She is abusive in such a way that she creates confrontations with him. The mother in question has a mental issue which she is aware of but she refuses to accept any treatment for. (Bi-Polar)

The man in question has routinely been pushed (physically, emotionally and spiritually) into situations where he raises his voice at his mother and rebukes her vitriol with his own vitriol. It's a relationship of mutual self-destruction.

This is clearly a sin against Hashem as these acts are banned. You shall not raise your voice at your mother and you shall not speak to her in a disrespectful manner.

After thinking long and hard, the man comes to a conclusion, the least spiritually damaging course of action would be to shun the relationship with his mother completely. His logic is as follows:

Screaming and returning emotional violence against your mother is a sin against God. The act is spiritually damaging and each confrontation can be assumed to be a new sin against Hashem.

While shunning is considered a sin because it can be considered a form of disrespect toward one's mother...you can only do it once. Meaning you shun the person one time and that is the sin.

Contrast that with holding onto the relationship and you can understand where his logic comes from.

Each confrontation with my mother would be considered a new sin on top of a new sin on top of a new sin. Because of the nature of the relationship is destruction and abuse. I would be continually choosing to put myself into a situation where I am risking sin. This in itself is spiritually damaging because by putting yourself in a situation where you are at risk of sinning, you are tempting sin.

From a Rabbinical standpoint, does this logic make sense? Would a person actually be considered doing "right-er" by Hashem if he broke off a relationship which would lead to further sinning?

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    May Hashem heal your situation. Apr 14, 2017 at 15:17
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    similar judaism.stackexchange.com/q/78248/759
    – Double AA
    Apr 14, 2017 at 15:23
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    This sounds like a question for your LOR. Apr 14, 2017 at 21:09
  • @user13783 I am sorry about your situation. It does sound like a question for your LOR. Meanwhile, kibud av va'eim means making sure your parent remains fed, clothed, and housed even in infirmity, and is one of the mitzvot one is able to do through a shaliach. You can even be yotzei the mitzvah paying the shaliach with your parents' money. I really recommend doing it that way, because cursing your parent is a distinct aveira, and making yourself emotionally ill is possibly another one. If you hire someone else to watch out for your parent, you can both do your duty and avoid harm.
    – SAH
    Sep 13, 2018 at 9:00

3 Answers 3

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Each situation is different and a person unfortunately facing this situation should ask his own Rav who knows the family for real guidance.

The OP writes: "While shunning is considered a sin because it can be considered a form of disrespect toward one's mother...you can only do it once. Meaning you shun the person one time and that is the sin."

That logic doesn't work because one should be honoring their parents every moment available. So shunning is a "new sin" every minute. We can see this from the Chazal that tells us that Yaakov Avinu was seperated 22 years from Yosef because he himself was seperated from his own parents for 22 years and did not fulfill kibud av v'em during that time.

That being said, I have been involved in more than one case like this and my Rabbis taught me that sometimes a temporary break with all due respect is needed because the destruction damages everyone, and Torah cares about the well being of the child too. However, the child in most cases can learn how to avoid some confrontation with a parent and avoid some pain by working on their own chracter as well.

More details would be too complicated to post because each case needs to be dealt with in detail by your family Rav and/or personal family mental health professional.

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    Consider adding sources. Preferably halakhic ones.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 14, 2017 at 17:41
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The literature on Halacha between abusive parents and children coincides with the psychological literature on surviving narcissistic abuse from parents. Both lean toward emancipation and separation.

Halachically, chayecha kodmin (your life takes precedence), applies in cases of abuse and danger. In addition, my rabbis have told me that you are not obligated to perform acts of kindness if the other party will reciprocate with hostility or negativity. This idea is sourced in the Maharik. See here.

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It says in "Honoring Parents in Halacha - A practical guide" by Rabbi Tzuriel Ta'aseh, on page 22, inyan 22:

The mitzvah of kibbud av va'em applies even if the parents are strict and demanding. However, if the parents are very difficult people and constantly cause their child distress, he should move away from them. It is always proper in such cases to seek competent halachic advice.

On page 77:

  1. If one's father or mother loses his or her mental faculties, he should try to bear with them until Heaven has mercy upon them and restores their faculties. However, if the condition has deteriorated to the extent that one cannot deal with his parent properly, and sometimes he has to scream or even hit the parent for his benefit, he should go away and arrange for someone else to take care of his parent.

Note that if the parent's condition is not life threatening, then it's not the child's business. You may not try to get medical services involved behind their back or anything (see page 68, inyan 5)

~

I've seen this basic answer in many places. If one has a very difficult relationship with their parents, the Torah permits or even obligates them to move away and reduce contact significantly. In extreme cases, perhaps even going no-contact would be possible, but that doesn't sound like it would apply here, and is a very grave thing to do. Either way, the main thing is - go speak to a Rabbi who knows the situation and get a psak.

All the best, dear yid

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  • Sorry, I keep doing this. I didn't realise how old this question was until after answering. I hope it is of use to someone somewhere!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Oct 20 at 15:58

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