Here's another tricky question about Halakhot of honoring parents (Shu"A ר"מ-רמ"א). I rewrite it to change the line of thinking.

  1. THe Gemmorah (Kid 30b, also Mishna Kritus 6,9 "**האב קודם לאם בכל מקום") states that as long as they are married, honoring the father takes precedence over the mother (when in contradiction or at the same time). The reason is that she's subordinate to him by the marriage contract (as long as they are married).

  2. When comparing honoring his father vs his Rabbi, the Rabbi takes precedence, because "the father brings him to this world, and the Rabbi to the world to come" (B"M 33a). The Gemmorah there proves that anyone who taught him a single Halacha deserves to be called Rabbi.

  3. The father has numerous Torah obligations toward his son (Kid 29a), such as Milah, Pidyon, learning Torah, educating for Mitzvos (let alone his obligatory financial support). So there's no way he does not teach his sons some Torah or Halakhah. Therefore in my understanding, he automatically falls under a category of "a Rabbi" (of some kind).

  4. However the Mom is totally exempt from all those - and does not usually teach the Torah or educate for Mitzvot. Therefore I conclude, that honoring the father (as a part-time Rabbi) must take a precedence over his mother when divorced.

  5. However, the Gem. concludes differently: once they are divorced - they are equal in honor and the child can pick one randomly.

The question: given #3, why would honoring the father equal to that of the divorced mother?

  • 2
    Are you assuming that "obligated to bring child to World to Come" is identical with "brings child to World to Come"? I see no reason why that should be the case, and therefore no reason why the father should supersede the mother based on this. If a particular father happens to bring a child to the World to Come, then that is simply the case of a father who is also his Rabbi. – Alex Jul 3 '18 at 14:44
  • In addition to what Alex said just because the mother is not obligated doesn't mean she doesn't teach the child. So there are four possible situations. Neither parent teaches the child, both parents teach the child, the mother teaches and the father doesn't, or the father teaches and the mother doesn't. Three out of four of these cases theyre equal or the wife is greater. The variable of torah teaching from parents is so subjective it doesn't make sense to say it as a general rule. Additionally it can be easily learnt out from the next mishna. – Orion Jul 4 '18 at 5:29
  • Also in regards to #1 one could easily argue that the whole subservient thing is highly dependant on societal factors and in fact would not apply today. – Orion Jul 4 '18 at 5:30
  • @Orion I rewrote the whole question – Al Berko Jul 4 '18 at 12:03
  • @Alex I understand your concerns and rewrite the question. – Al Berko Jul 4 '18 at 12:03

R. Yosef Karo discusses a contradiction between two rulings of Rambam about this law. In the last line he writes:

Kesef Mishneh Hilchot Talmud Torah 5:1

וכל דינים הללו ברבו מובהק אבל רבו שאינו מובהק אפילו אין אביו תלמיד חכם אבידת אביו קודמת דיותר חייב בכבוד אביו מכבודו דלא מקרי הביאו לחיי העולם הבא כל שלא למד ממנו רוב חכמתו

And all these laws are regarding his outstanding rabbi. But regarding his non-outstanding rabbi, even if his father is not a Torah scholar the lost object of his father takes precedence, because he is more obligated in the honor of his father than the honor [of his non-outstanding rabbi], since one is not considered to have brought someone to the World to Come unless the person learned most of his wisdom from him.

This being the case, we can now compare a father and mother. Even if the father teaches the son more than the mother does, it will not impact the order of returning lost objects. As long as the father is not his "outstanding rabbi" it is not considered to be a clash between one who brought him to this world and one who brings him to the World to Come. Therefore we are left with a clash of two people to whom he has equal obligations of honor. Therefore, if the father and mother are married the father takes precedence because the mother also has an obligation to honor her husband. If they are not married, there are no obligations other than the son's equal obligation of honor to both of them, so he does not have to give precedence to his father.

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