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Honoring Our Parents

Honoring Our Parents

Learn about the Ten Commandments and specifically about the Fifth Commandment, which is the honoring of one's parents.

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Why do We Honor Our Parents?
By Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort
This mitzvah is considered so weighty that it is one of the Ten Commandments. The importance of honoring one's parents is further emphasized by the fact that it is the fifth of the 10 Commandments.
As many know, the 10 Commandments were given on two tablets with five commandments on each tablet. The first tablet was reserved for those laws that deal with a person's relationship with G‑d, while the second tablet deals with the laws governing human interaction. The Sages note that including the law to honor one's parents on the first tablet shows its significance. It is such a critical aspect of our existence that only through fulfilling this law can we fully appreciate our relationship with the Almighty.
The 10 Commandments are recorded twice in the Torah. The first time they appear is in the portion of Yitro and the second time is in the portion of Va'Etchanan. When they appear the second time the wording is a bit different, as the words "The L-rd, your G‑d, commanded you" are added. The additional words underscore the fact that although we have a natural tendency to honor our parents, this tendency can wane depending upon circumstances. When, however, we are reminded that this is a direct command from G‑d, we are made to understand that fulfilling this obligation has nothing to do with our personal feelings or experiences. Instead, the idea is reinforced to honor our parents not only because of our natural feelings, but because the "Commander in Chief" has so ordained.
This particular law hearkens back to a recurring theme. Jewish philosophy posits that there are three partners in the creation of a new life, and those are G‑d, the mother and the father. We are required to view our parents not only with love, but with awe as well. We place our parents upon a pedestal and keep them there.
This philosophy reminds us of a critical component in Jewish belief. In direct contrast to the secular viewpoint, we understand that the further back we go in Jewish history the greater our predecessors are considered. It is true that we may have advanced in the field of secular knowledge, but when it comes to the realm of the spiritual we pale in comparison with those who came before us. We Jews also know that those who excel in the spiritual arena are our role models and the "super heroes" of any Jew.
As a rabbi I frequently get asked, "Do you observe the holidays of Thanksgiving, Mother's Day and Father's Day?" To this I respond: "In Judaism we learn that every day has to be a day of Thanksgiving, and every day we must honor and cherish our parents."
It is for these reasons that every one of us must endeavor to truly honor our parents. That means that we make an active effort to look after their needs (both physical and spiritual), as well as treating them with the utmost respect, whether we agree with them or not. It is not just a nice or sensible thing to do; it is a direct commandment from G‑d!
Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort is director of Chabad at La Costa and a scholar on AskMoses.com. Rabbi Eilfort welcomes readers comments and questions and may be reached via e-mail at rabbiE@chabadatlacosta.com.
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