Kiddushin 30b: Calling an Adoptive Parent “Father”

Kiddushin 30b: The Torah equates honoring one’s father and mother to honoring Hashem…because all three of them are partners in the child.

Ramban: The second part of the Ten Commandments, which deals with man and his fellow man, begins with one’s father, who is like a creator who participates in creating his children. Hashem is our first Father, and our human father is our last father. Therefore in the version of Ten Commandments in Devarim, it says, “Honor your father and mother as I have commanded you” – that is, just as I have commanded you to honor Me, so I have commanded you to honor the one who joins Me in creating you. The Torah does not need to specify what kind of honor this is, because it can be derived from the honor for our first Father, blessed is He, detailed earlier in the first three commandments: the son must admit that his father is really his father, and not deny him by calling another man his father…

קידושין ל ע”ב: ת״ר נאמר: (שמות כ) כבד את אביך ואת אמך, ונאמר: (משלי ג) כבד את ה׳ מהונך, השוה הכתוב כבוד אב ואם לכבוד המקוםֹ וכו’ וכן בדין, ששלשתן שותפין בו.

רמב”ן שמות כ,יב: והתחיל מן האב שהוא לתולדותיו כענין בורא משתתף ביצירה, כי השם אבינו הראשון, והמוליד אבינו האחרון, ולכך אמר במשנה תורה (דברים ה טז) כאשר צויתיך בכבודי כן אנכי מצוך בכבוד המשתתף עמי ביצירתך. ולא פירש הכתוב הכבוד, שהוא נלמד מן הכבוד הנאמר למעלה באב הראשון יתברך, שיודה בו שהוא אביו, ולא יכפור בו לאמר על אדם אחר שהוא אביו, ולא יעבדנו כבן לירושתו, או לענין אחר שיצפה ממנו, ולא ישא שם אביו וישבע בחיי אביו לשוא ולשקר. ויכנסו בכלל הכבוד דברים אחרים, כי בכל כבודו נצטווינו, ומפורשים הם בדברי רבותינו (קדושין לא:) , וכבר אמרו (שם ל:) שהוקש כבודו לכבוד המקום.

Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky related that his mother was left without parents when she was an infant. Her father, R’ Zorach Danzig, born 1843, was related to the author of the Chayei Adam and lived in the town of Dolhinov, Belorussia. He was ordained with smicha, but chose to be a businessman. He dealt in the foreign export of grain and had amassed substantial holdings at a young age. He was prominent in the community for his chartibleness – the townspeople coined the cliché “The poor survive around Danzig.” On Erev Pesach of 1870, he arrived home from a business trip too late to sell his chametz. He took it for granted that despite his merits, he would suffer retribution for the oversight, and he was sure that he would not live through the following year. Eleven and a half months later, only 28 years of age, he died on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. His wife, Devorah, who was one year his junior, had no will to go on living without him, and she succumbed five weeks later. Four children survived – two boys and two girls ranging from the ages of six to one.

The bereaved uncles convened and decided that four of them would adopt the four orphans. R’ Zorach’s stock was sold for 20,000 rubles, a huge fortune then, and each of the adoptive parents took an equal share. Four-year-old Esther was adopted by her mother’s brother, R’ Yankel Puterfas, and taken to the distant Ukraine, where her uncle bought for his share of the inheritance a bee farm near the city of Pereyaslav, about 60 kilometers southeast of Kiev. Because it was a year of drought and the fields produced no flowers for his bees, R’ Yankel lost his 5,000 rubles. But he accepted this as the will of G-d and did not for one moment regret having adopted his niece. He had a daughter of his own named Esther too; so he changed his niece’s name to Ettil, and raised his ward with the same loving care as his own children. Naturally, Ettil, a mere tot when her parents were snatched away, forgot her roots and grew up believing she was another of R’ Yankel Puterfas’s daughters.

But when Ettil reached the age of 15, a youngish, bearded man appeared in her dreams to tell her not to call the head of the household “Father” because he, the man in her dream, was her real father. Distressed by the strange dream, she refused to eat her breakfast the next morning, and the pleadings of her aunt to tell her what bothered her fell on deaf ears. After several days of this type of behavior, her uncle brought home three rabbis to talk sense into Ettil. When she finally revealed what was on her mind, R’ Yankel divulged that her dream was nothing but the truth. He told of the tragedy that had befallen the family over 11 years earlier and how the four orphans had to be separated, and that Ettil should certainly not call him “Father” any longer if that was the wish of his deceased brother-in-law. When Ettil was told that she had a big sister, Rivka, who by this time had returned to her ancestral home in Dolhinov and was subsisting on the income from the houses and stores that her late father owned, Ettil asked to be reunited with her. The three rabbis agreed that she be returned to Belorussia.

Later, when Ettil married Binyomin Kamenetsky, she named her third child Yaakov after her uncle and foster father.

Source: Making of a Godol pp. 23-25

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