Honoring Parents


Dear Rabbi,

I am on an airplane now as I write this. I just got up to use the facilities. When I returned, my elderly mother had fallen asleep in the aisle seat with her head on my seat. It is a full flight with nowhere else to sit. I felt I had no choice but to wake her up. She was startled but not angry. Since she did not grant me permission in advance to wake her up, did I do the right thing?

Much appreciation!



  1. I hope that you and your mother had an otherwise pleasant flight!

    The Torah teaches us to honor and respect our parents. We are to do as they request, with very few exceptions, such as telling the child to transgress a mitzvah. We are also taught to refrain from doing or saying anything that might cause them any type of physical or emotional discomfort.

    It would have been better if you had asked your mother in advance if you could wake her during the flight as needed. If she did not mind, there would have been no problem. However, because you did not have her permission in advance, it would have been correct to not disturb her sleep. For example, perhaps you might have asked the aircrew if you could sit on one of the fold-down seats they use, until your mother wakes up. Or stand near the kitchenette.

    Our Sages tell an insightful story about the importance and reward for honoring parents. One of the precious stones of the Kohen Gadol’s breastplate fell out and was lost. The Rabbis called on a non-Jew named Dama ben Netina, who reportedly had the jewel they needed. They offered him one hundred dinars and he agreed. When he went to get the jewel, he saw he could not reach it without waking up his father. As a result, he went back and told the Rabbis he was unsuccessful. Assuming he was trying to renegotiate the price upwards, they kept offering him more and more money, soon reaching tenfold the original offer. Later, when his father woke up, Dama brought the Rabbis the jewel. Although they were still willing to pay him their exorbitant offer of 1,000 dinar, he was only willing to accept their initial offer of 100. He said, “Do you think that I would sell the honor of my father for mere coins? I refuse to derive any tangible benefit from the honor of my father!” We are taught that Dama received a Heavenly reward for this act of honoring his parents: that same night, a pure, extremely rare red heifer, which was essential for ritual purity, was born to Dama’s cow – and the Rabbis bought it from him for a small fortune.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team