Jewish Law

Honoring Abusive Parent



Dear Rabbi, Is it ever allowed to distance yourself (as an adult child) from a parent that is very mentally and verbally abusive? If the parent is very destructive and deceitful and no resolution can be found is it permissible to avoid contact? Thank you.


To the questioner, 

In general the rule is, that one must maintain respect for father's and mother's wishes even if they request for something that is illogical. 

However, it seems that if there is danger of the child (even as an adult) losing his own self confidence and self esteem as a person, it would be permissible for one to distance themselves. 
The reason for this is:
The Torah says that one does not have to honor father and mother if they order him to disobey a law of the Torah (Rashi, Vayikra 19:3). 
It therefore follows, that if the parent requests something that will cause the child to lose his ability to fulfill mitzvos, such as something that will break him from being a fully functioning individual, then maintaining his own balance as a person has priority, because only then will he be able to continue to fulfill the mitzvos. 
This is not an automatic exemption, though. Since the self-esteem of a person does not become broken at one time but over a period of time, it would be necessary for each individual who feels that he faces such a situation with parents, to weigh himself truthfully at each point that the question arises, and if there is not really any direct danger as of now to his becoming broken from the contact with parents or from fulfilling their requests, he would still be obligated in Kibud Av V'aim. 

With Blessings, 
Rav Nachum