Project Genesis

Basics of Judaism

Reward and Punishment

Punishment of Children for the Parents’ Sins

Question: How do I understand “punishment of children for the parents’ sins”? If the parents aren’t good this should bring punishment for their children? Also, how can children honor those parents?

Answer: Children are not punished for the sins of the parents unless they continue in the parents evil ways. Generally, a child should honor parents even if they aren’t righteous unless they intentionally sin. Most people today don’t have a proper Jewish education and thus aren’t considered wicked even if they sin.

Question: Thank you very much for your answer. 

You said, “Most people today don’t have a proper Jewish education and thus aren’t considered wicked even if they sin.” But most Jews know about kashrut (Jewish dietary laws)  but only few of them keep kosher. Also, it is very hard for the children to reject their parents’ lifestyle and at the same time to honor them. 

How do we deal with that?

Answer: Even if they know about the concept of Kashrut, they were never taught that Judaism makes sense, or that the religion is based on historical evidence that G-d really gave us the Torah, etc. They were raised to think that this is “The opiate of the masses”. I don’t see why children can’t honor them just because the parents aren’t religious. The child should appreciate all that the parents have done for them and how they raised them to search for truth, meaning, etc. They should honor the parents for giving them the intellectual and emotional sustenance that helped the children to find Torah.

Rabbi Meir Goldberg

1 Follow-up »

  1. I am curious how the merits of the parents affect the children. I heard once that merits are passed to the children but I don’t really understand this concept. What is a merit? how does it really affect the child and their relationship to hashem.


    This is a lengthy subject, but I’ll give you several ideas. Children receive some reward that is given in the merit of their fathers much like a child of a person who became a millionaire, receives millions in inheritance through no merit of his own. Another concept is; the child receives certain qualities, which become second nature to the child, which were merited through the hard work of the fathers. The child put no effort into this but has received these good qualities as an inheritance of the character of sorts. For example, prior to 200 years ago almost all Jews no matter what level they were spiritually were willing to die rather than convert. They received this as an inheritance of the character from Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Patriarch) who was willing to risk death rather than forsake Hashem in front of Nimrod.
    Rabbi Meir Goldberg

    Comment by ATR — March 12, 2006 @ 11:28 pm

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