The camp counselor pulled out her copy of The Fifth Commandment. "Actually, Chana, yes," she said, and opened the book to page 113.
- Children must honor and revere parents even if the parents, for whatever reason, did not tend to their needs as they were growing up. Even if the children grew up in an orphanage, in foster care or were adopted, they must fulfill all their obligations towards their parents. Likewise, if one's parents divorced and he had limited or no connection to one of his parents, he is nonetheless fully obligated to honor that parent. Even parents who acted abusively towards children must be honored. [emph mine]
- Honoring in-laws (see Chapter IX, Introduction to section D) is derived from the fact that King David called his father-in-law King Saul "my father." This was in spite of King Saul's terrible harassment of King David. Certainly parents must be honored despite the abusive fashion in which they treat their children. 
In some instances abuse may place a parent in the category of rasha. A competent halachic authority should be consulted.
- "You've made my life a living hell!" she sneered. "Now it's time I showed you what hell is like!" Gripping my arm, Mother held it in the orange-blue flame. My skin seemed to explode from the heat. I could smell the scorched hairs from my burnt arm. As hard as I fought, I could not force Mother to let go of my arm. Finally I fell to the floor, on my hands and knees, and tried to blow cool air on my arm. "It's too bad your drunken father's not here to save you," she hissed. Mother then ordered me to climb up onto the stove and lie on the flames so she could watch me burn. I refused, crying and pleading. I felt so scared I stomped my feet in protest. But Mother continued to force me on top of the stove. (41)
For nearly ten days I had gone without food. I had just finished the dinner dishes when Mother repeated her "you have two minutes to eat" game. There were only a few bits of food on the plate. I felt she would snatch the plate away again, so I moved with a purpose. I didn't give Mother a chance to snatch it away like she had the past three evenings. So I grabbed the plate and quickly swallowed the food without chewing it. Within seconds, I finished eating all that was on the plate and licked it clean. "You eat like a pig!" Mother snarled. I bowed my head, acting as though I cared. But inside I laughed at her, saying to myself, "Fuck you! Say what you want! I got the food!" (107)
During the Easter vacation from school the spring before, Mother had sent me out to mow. She had set a quota on my earnings and ordered me to return the money to her. The quota was impossible for me to meet, so, in desperation, I once stole nine dollars from the piggy bank of a small girl who lived in our neighborhood. Within hours, the girl's father was knocking on the front door. Of course, Mother returned the money and blamed me. After the man left, she beat me black and blue. I only stole the money to try and meet her quota. (109)
To my surprise there wasn't any bucket or bottles in the bathroom. "Am I off the hook?" I asked myself. This looked too easy. I timidly watched Mother as she turned the cold water tap in the bathtub fully open. I thought it was odd that she forgot to turn on the hot water as well. As the tub began to fill with cold water, Mother tore off my clothes and ordered me into the tub. I got into the tub and laid down. A cold fear raced throughout my body. "Lower!" Mother yelled. "Put your face in the water like this!" She then bent over, grabbed my neck with both hands and shoved my head under the water. Instinctively, I thrashed and kicked, trying desperately to force my head above the water so I could breathe. Her grip was too strong. Under the water I opened my eyes. I could see bubbles escape from my mouth and float to the surface as I tried to shout. I tried to thrust my head from side to side as I saw the bubbles becoming smaller and smaller. I began to feel weak. In a frantic effort I reached up and grabbed her shoulders. My fingers must have dug into her because Mother let go. She looked down on me, trying to get her breath. "Now keep your head below the water, or next time it will be longer!" ( 112)
Suddenly her voice turned ice cold and she jabbed her finger at my face and hissed, "Get one thing straight, you little son of a bitch! There is nothing you can do to impress me! Do you understand me? You are a nobody! An It! You are nonexistent! You are a bastard child! I hate you and I wish you were dead! Dead! Do you hear me? Dead!" (140)
And The Fifth Commandment states that a child who has been abused by his parents is supposed to respect them? That he must honor them? Unless they could be proven to be a rasha?
And what is the halakhic categorization of a rasha? We are commonly taught it is one who lifts his hand to strike his fellow. And would it have been better if Dave's mother had never struck him, but had merely cursed him and verbally abused him, called him an "It" and had him stand in the corner repeating, "I hate myself! I hate myself!" over and over again? Because she would not, perhaps, have halakhically made it into the category of rasha, it would still be upon him to honor her?
No! Unthinkable! My camp counselor had to be wrong. There is no way that God created a world in which child abuse is permissible, in which the perpetrators of such abuse must be honored in accordance to the law. There is no way that God expects this from a child who is the victim of the greatest betrayal of trust that can ever be, an innocent child who is exposed to a world of horror and hatred, of complete and utter cruelty.
But I have looked and looked and I personally cannot find support for my view.
And I am deeply troubled by this. Because what is the Torah supposed to be? Is the Torah only valid for antiquity, in which case it is easy to excuse its emphasis and allowal of corporal punishment? Or is it supposed to be our moral guidebook even nowadays? And if it is, then how can it possibly be that the Torah does not provide for the rights of a child?!
It is true that we read in Baba Batra 21a "If you strike a child, strike them only with a shoelace." But this is only a suggestion. It is not the law.
We see in Exodus 21:
- טו וּמַכֵּה אָבִיו וְאִמּוֹ, מוֹת יוּמָת.
15 And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
It is quite clear that teachers made use of corporal punishment. As I read yesterday in Eichah Rabbah:
- R. Abbahu was sitting and teaching in the Synagogue in a place in Caesarea. He noticed a man carrying a stick and about to strike his neighbor. He also saw a demon standing behind him with an iron rod; so he stood up and restrained him, crying, "Do you want to kill your neighbor?" The man said to him, "Can anyone kill with such a stick as this?" He answered, "Behold, there is a demon standing behind you with an iron rod; you will strike the man with this stick, but he will strike him with the other and the man will die! R. Johanan enjoined elementary and Mishnah teachers not to use a strap on the children during these days [between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Ab, because the blow might prove fatal.] R. Samuel b. Nahmani enjoined the elementary and Mishnah teachers to dismiss the young children during those four hours [the teachers would be irascible and liable to chastise the pupils.] [emph mine]
So Molech is wrong because it profanes God's name. But isn't it also wrong because it is a cruel and terrible thing to do, to offer up one's child and force him to walk over burning coals and/or be consumed as a sacrifice? Why is that not mentioned?
It must be that there is something here I have not found, some source I am not aware of. But where in the Torah, the written Torah, do we see clear laws protecting children or ensuring that they cannot and must not be abused? Where do we see that child abuse, whether physical, verbal or sexual, is a sin?
And if it is not here, why is it not here? Is it because I am trying to impose my Western morals upon an ancient text? But tell me, is the Torah not supposed to outline morality and proper behavior? And if it is, why is child abuse a matter of modernity rather than a matter of morality?
I know that as Jews we certainly do not condone child abuse. I know that regardless of whether or not there is an explicit statement in the Torah outlining this, we certainly do not allow for children to be beaten within an inch of their life, to be verbally put down, starved, terrified or otherwise hurt. My question is not in our practice of this law; I know we practice it. My question is with regard to the source.
Where halakhically do we see that child abuse is a crime, a sin, otherwise forbidden?
I ask this because I must know. There is nothing in this world that I hate more than child abuse, nothing that sickens and disturbs me more. I do not want to believe that God completely neglected to mention this issue in his Torah. But perhaps that is the truth. And if that is the truth, I want to know why.
 "Honoring in-laws (see Chapter IX, Introduction to section D) is derived from the fact that King David called his father-in-law King Saul "my father." This was in spite of King Saul's terrible harassment of King David. Certainly parents must be honored despite the abusive fashion in which they treat their children. "
This is the most illogical reasoning I have ever heard. King Saul tried to kill King David. You are seriously telling me that because King David referred to him as "father," because he preferred to remember the side of Saul that was good rather than the side that was cruel and unkind, this sets the precedent that all abused children must honor their parents?! Are you kidding me?