In the twenty-first century, rebelling against one’s family is all-too-often presented as a right of passage, a natural part of growing up and as a means of declaring one’s independence. The Torah, however, stresses the importance of honoring one’s father and mother.

While halacha (Jewish law) provides guidelines on observing the particulars of honoring one’s father and mother, there are certain situations when honoring one’s parent(s) can be tricky. For instance, what should a person do when his/her parent is leading them into trouble?

There is a fascinating Midrash about the sons of Korach, Moses’ cousin who led a rebellion against his leadership in the wilderness. Korach and his followers were ultimately punished when the earth opened up and swallowed them alive (think spontaneous, isolated earthquake).  However, the Torah reports that “the sons of Korach did not die” (Numbers 26:11).

According to the Midrash, the sons of Korach were separated from Korach’s other followers because of one specific incident. Korach and his three sons were sitting by their tent and noticed Moses approaching. “They said to one another, ‘What shall we do? If we rise out of respect for Moses we will, in effect, be showing disrespect for our father, and we are commanded to honor father and mother. If we do not rise, we will have transgressed the command to rise before a sage.’ They decided to rise out of respect for Moses” (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni 752).

The sons of Korach were faced with a difficult dilemma, but what is particularly noteworthy is their decision-making process and how heavily they weighed the importance of honoring their father.

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