What should one do when two Torah laws seem to be in conflict? One of the most common examples of such a situation is in the commandment to honor one’s mother and father.

This law includes taking care of parents (when needed) and fulfilling their requests. For instance, if a parent asks a child to prepare a sandwich for him/her, it would be disrespectful to refuse (unless there is a legitimate reason why the child cannot ).

But what happens when a parent requests that their child do something that violates another Torah command…let’s say Shabbat. Today, this might not be considered an unusual question. After all, there is a significant segment of the Jewish population known as Baalei Teshuva (usually referring to formerly non-observant Jews who have accepted a lifestyle of religious observance) whose parents are not familiar with Shabbat observance. But, even in the days of the Talmudic sages, this very question of whether one can violate Shabbat in order to fulfill the mitzvah of honoring one’s mother and father (both of which are in the “big ten”), was already discussed.

“One might have assumed that the honoring of one’s father and mother should supercede Shabbat, therefore it was explicitly written, ‘Every person shall fear his father and his mother, and you shall keep My Shabbats’ (Leviticus 19:3). All of you [child and parents] are required to honor Me…the case in point must be one where the parent said to him [the child], ‘Slaughter for me’, or ‘Cook for me’; and the reason [why the parent must not be obeyed is] because the God has written [in that very sentence], ‘You shall keep my Shabbats.’ [letting us know that honoring God’s commandment takes precedence.” (Talmud Yevamot 5b).

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