Tzemach Tzadik - Rabbi Leone da Modena Love of Father and Mother and Relatives Chapter 3


Back to chapter 2 about love of Hashem

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

Love of Father, Mother and Relatives

The second class of love is that of man for his mother and father and relatives since they are his flesh and blood and one's natural inclination gives preference to love for them before love for others. We already know the importance of the obligation to love one's father and mother from what King Solomon says (Proverbs 15, 20): "A wise son will delight his father and a foolish one will shame his mother".

Our Sages of blessed memory said that Esav enjoyed much merit on account of his having honored [his parents] Yitzchak [Isaac] and Rivkah [Rebecca] more than any other person. They further related in the first chapter of [Talmud Bavli in] the treatise of Kiddushin [folio 31a]: "Take note of the behavior of a certain gentile in Ashkelon who was called Dama ben Netina. Once1 […] I do not ask from you any more than the sum of money which I gave up for the sake of honoring my father. When the Sages heard this, they said: if somebody who was not commanded to honor his father [behaves in this exemplary manner], how much more one who is commanded should do the same!"

After this, it is fitting to love one's brothers and relatives, since our Sages of blessed memory have said: there is no poverty to be compared with that of close relatives, since blood is thicker than water. Therefore every person should help and save his relative in time of need. And our Sages of blessed memory further said (Talmud Bavli, treatise Yebamoth 62b): "Our Sages taught that the verse says about one who loves his neighbours, draws close his relatives, marries his sister's daughter2 and lends money3 to a poor man in his time of need (Isaia 58, 9): ”Then you will call out and Hashem will answer; you will supplicate and He will say 'Here I am'.”

Your impoverished relatives have priority over the poor of your hometown; since blood is vital to life.

Notes of the translators:
[1] The father of this gentleman owned a precious stone which was direly needed to complete he Choshen of the Kohen Gadol (the breastplate of the High Priest). When the Holy Temple representatives came to his house to buy this precious stone, Dama informed them that the key to the strongbox containing the stone was under his father's pillow, and that his father was sleeping. Even when offered a huge sum of money, he refused to wake his father out of sincere love and respect for him. As a result, they found another source for the stone. The following year, a red heifer was born in his flock and he could have asked an even bigger sum from the the Holy Temple representatives. Dama agreed to accept only that amount of money which he had forgone in the first place as a result of honoring his father.
[2] The comment of Tosafot says that the text chose this particular wording because of the special affection towards one's sister.
[3] The original text mentions the Talmudic sum of a Sela.

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 3 about love of father and mother is found at page 11.