Here’s the scenario. Your father asked you to pick him up a lulav and esrog set. You bought two. One for you and one for your father. One of them is more Mehudar than the other. Who gets the better one?
Believe it or not, the issue is not so clear. A number of Poskim rule that there is no obligation to give the better one to the father, and they cite the following She’arei Kneses HaGedolah and Bikkurei Yaakov as proof.
The She’arei Kneses HaGedolah (OC 660) states that if you want to buy a lulav and esrog and someone else is trying to purchase it for a leading sage of the generation, there is no obligation to let the sage have it. The Bikkurei Yaakov (OC 656) writes that the same would be true regarding a father.
Rabbi Shammai Kehas Gross, a Dayan in Belze in Eretz Yisroel, and author of the Shaivet HaKehasi (Vol. IV #175) is one of the Poskim that ruled that there is no obligation. Initially, Rav Gross wished to distinguish between a case when the father was aware that a second one was purchased from when he was unaware. He writes that when the father is aware, it may cause him an ill feeling if he was given the lesser quality set. Later on, he cites a responsa of the Maharam Lublin (#136), that if the embarrassment to the father is caused only by inaction rather than action, it is not a problem. The Shaivet HaKehasi thus rules that even in such a situation there is no obligation to give it to the father.
Rav Aharon Yehudah Grussman (Vedarshta v’chakarta Bereishis 9) writes that not only may the son keep the better one, but he is even permitted to deceive the father and hide the existence of the second better quality Esrog.
The responsa Chukei Chaim, written by Rav Chaim Shaya Koenig, (Vol. IV #131) (cited in the Sukkas Chaim p. 196) also rules that the son has no such obligation.
It is this author’s view, however, that the citation of the She’arei Kneses HaGedolah and the Bikkurei Yaakov have no relevance to our case because they are both discussing a situation where there is only one esrog set available for purchase. In that case, it is clear that there is no obligation.
However, when there are two kosher sets available and one is better than the other, then a good argument can be made that one should give the better one to the father. We find that when there are two sets of something available that there is an obligation to give the better one to a Kohen. Honoring one’s father is at least as great a Mitzvah as honoring a Kohen.
The distinction can be seen in the words of Rashi in Gittin 59b where the obligation to honor a Kohen is to let the Kohen choose a manah yafeh first. The obligation to honor a Kohen is to let him choose the better portion when there is a choice of two. Rashi chose his words carefully to show that when there is only one portion there is no obligation to honor the Kohen.
This is a situation where one would fulfill a Torah Mitzvah of honoring one’s parent. While it is true that the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents is only with the parent’s funds and there is no obligation in spending one’s own money, here that is not the case. The father is spending his own money.
In searching for other authorities that agree with our position, this author found only one. Rav Yitzchok Tuvya Weiss shlita, the Av Beis Din of the Eida HaChareidis, is cited by Rav Simcha Bunim Londinski in his Sukkas Chaim that Hiddur Mitzvah is only Rabbinic in origin, while the Mitzvah of honoring parents is biblical. Rav Weiss recommended that the better set be given to the father.
It is this author’s view that even according to the Poskim that Hiddur Mitzvah is biblical (Raavad in his critique on Baal HaMeor on Sukkah 29b; Chiddushei Anshei Shaim on the Rif and others, Kapos Tmarim Sukkah ibid), one would still be obligated in giving it to the father, as one can still fulfill the Mitzvah with the other set. Honoring parents is known as one of the highest Mitzvos and would be preferable to Hiddur Mitzvah as well.
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