Question: Is it ever permitted for a child to say the name of his parent?
Short Answer: Even though some do not allow a child to mention his parent’s name after a preface such as “my father, so and so,” many poskim allow a child to say his parent’s name with such a preface or even without a preface for purely identification purposes.
I. The Source
The Gemara in Kiddushin (31b), according to Rashi, relates that a magid shiur should not mention his father by name in his lecture, but should rather refer to his father as “avi mori” –
“my father, my teacher.” The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Dei’ah 240:2) codifies this law and rules that a child should call his father avi mori both during the father’s lifetime and even after the father dies.
Similarly, the Shulchan Aruch (ibid) rules that even if a child wants to refer to a friend of his with the same unique (as opposed to a generic) name as his father, the child should call the friend a different name. The Rama adds that if the friend and the father share a generic name, the child may say the friend’s name not in the presence of his father.
II. The Reason
The Radvaz (cited in the sefer Ateres Shmuel, siman 10) explains the reason for this prohibition is because when a child refers to his parent by the parent’s name, it degrades the honor of the parent. This is the understanding of the S’dei Chemed, as well, who explains that, accordingly, this prohibition is d’Oraisa.
On the other hand, the sefer Moreh Horim U’K’vodam (cited in Ateres Shmuel, ibid) gives another reason for the prohibition. Since the honor of a parent is connected to the honor of Hashem, and one is not allowed to mention Hashem’s name in vain, so too, a child should not mention a parent’s name.
The sefer Moreh Horim U’K’vodam suggests that according to the reason of the Radvaz that the prohibition stems from the degradation of the father, perhaps a father cannot waive this prohibition, and even if a father allows the child to call him by his name, it is still prohibited. On the other hand, if the reason is because of the father’s honor (and its connection to Hashem), perhaps it can be waived as could other instances of honor to a parent.
Notably, the Igros Moshe (Yoreh Dei’ah 1:133) appears to allow a father to waive the prohibition in the case where the friend has the same name as the parent. The child would then be allowed to call his friend the same name as his father, even in the father’s presence.
III. My Father, My Teacher Plus Name
The Maharshal (YS”S, Kiddushin 1:65) points out an important distinction between referring to a rebbe by his name versus referring to a parent by his name. With a rebbe, it is permitted to say, “my rebbe, Rabbi So & So” in order to let the listener know to whom you are referring. However, since a person only has one father and mother, when discussing a parent, the child should only refer to his parent as “my parent, my teacher” without adding on the parent’s name.
This is the ruling of the Igros Moshe (ibid) and Rav Y. S. Elyashiv zt”l (cited in Ateres Shmuel, ibid), as well.
The Maharshal adds that even though the Tur apparently refers to his father the “Rosh” by his name, what the Tur really means is “his father, the head (rosh) of the Rabbis.” The Igros Moshe (ibid), however, disputes the proof of the Maharshal by suggesting that perhaps writing down the name of a parent is permitted, and thus the Tur referred to his father by name in his sefer. The Igros Moshe likewise suggests that perhaps if there is a great need for a child to mention the father’s name, he is permitted to do so.
Nevertheless, the Chida (cited in Ateres Shmuel, ibid) appears to broaden the heter and cites numerous examples in the Gemara where Amora’im referred to their parent as “my father, so and so.” According to the Chida, it would be permitted for a child to say “my father, so and so” even if there was no great need to do so.
Finally, Rav Y. S. Elyashiv (ibid) allows a child to say his father’s name without any additional preface such as “my father” if the sole reason for mentioning this father’s name is for identification purposes.
Next Week’s Topic: Must a child listen to a parent who commands the child to bring the parent a cigarette or other unhealthful/dangerous food items?