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Respecting elderly
Rabbi Ari Enkin

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

When honoring our parents, we ensure that family peace, harmony and values are continued and passed on to the next generation. It is also a way of honoring G-d.

This week’s Torah portion is Yitro (Exodus 18:1 – 20:23) and it includes one of the most famous sections in the entire Torah. Yitro contains the Revelation at Mount Sinai, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, which is the topic I want to discuss this week.

The Ten Commandments were given on two tablets of stone, whose letters were Divinely etched by through and through. On each tablet five commandments were written. The first five commandments are commonly categorized as commandments that apply between man and God, while the second five commandments are viewed as commandments that apply between man and his fellow man.

This two-tiered categorization seems to be quite accurate and logical — with the exception of one commandment. On the “between man and God” tablet we have:

1. I am the Lord thy God
2. Thou shall have no other gods
3. Do not take the Lord’s name in vain
4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

So far so good. These first four commandments are indeed clearly precepts that govern the relationship between man and God. But, as mentioned, there is a fifth commandment on the “between man and God” side of the Ten Commandments, and that is:

5. Honor your father and mother

Huh? Wait a second! What’s going on here? Honoring your father and mother is a commandment that applies “between man and his fellow man” not “between man and God”!! What’s this commandment doing on the “between man and God” side of the Ten Commandments??

The answer can be found in the Talmud. The Talmud teaches that whoever honors his parents is essentially honoring God. As such, it is indeed fit for this commandment to be on the “between man and God” tablet.

To further illustrate the connection between honoring one’s parents and honoring God: When a person honors his parents he is essentially acknowledging that there are authorities in this world besides oneself. One demonstrates that there are rules, regulations, and protocols in this world. This is what God demands of us, as well. In order to be a good person, let alone a good Jew, one must have humility and realize that oftentimes we must resign to our parents’ authority. Hence, honoring one’s parents is in effect honoring God Himself.

So too, when honoring our parents, we are ensuring that family peace, harmony and values are continued and passed on to the next generation. Indeed, when your children see you honoring your parents, they will be more readily inclined to honor you.

Honoring your parents ensures that Jewish tradition continues, which is in effect, honoring God as His will continues to be fulfilled and perpetuated.

It is through honoring one’s parents that one becomes a full fledged member of the Jewish people. One who does so takes Jewish tradition along with him to the next generation and ensures that Judaism will never perish. Am Yisrael Chai.

Shabbat Shalom from Israel!