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Introduction

Introduction

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Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the L‑rd, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers.1

Nearly every day of his life man is faced with the problem of rendering value-judgements affecting his behavior. Oftentimes, when exposed to various temptations, man’s judgements tend to be clouded by subjectivity. Situations arise in which he will shrug off some duties or ignore some injunctions—in whole or in part—considering them to be trivial.

In such cases, however, neglect of the apparently minor obligation may ultimately prove to be of tragic consequence. That is why we are admonished to heed what appears to be a minor precept as much as the major one.2

The “minor” precepts, or the seemingly “minor” details of the mitzvot, are in fact of major significance.

The Psalmist’s words, “The iniquity of my heels compasseth me about,”3 are interpreted to mean that “those sins that man tramples upon with his heels in this world (because they appear to him unimportant) encompass and surround him on the Day of Judgement.”4

The “minor” details or aspects of the mitzvot are of a very real consequence. For one thing, they add up individually, and in their grand total rise to great proportion; but, also, it is the care and observance of minutiae which leads to the care and observance of the major precepts, as much as that the neglect of minutiae ultimately leads to major transgressions.

The principle stated above applies especially to precepts that impose daily duties and a practically continuous personal involvement. For in cases as such there lurks the danger of “familiarity breeding neglect if not contempt.”

One of those continuous and exacting precepts is the duty to honor and revere our parents.

Following, we offer a brief outline of what our tradition understands by this precept, and some of the specific obligations of children towards their parents.

The subject deserves close attention. For even while the mitzvah of kibbud av va’em (the precept to honor father and mother) may be a self-evidently rational5-ethical principle, the Talmud refers to it as the most difficult mitzvah.6

Moreover, nowadays we find even most fundamental principles of normal ethical behavior trampled upon. Very often parents are no longer recognized as forging links in a chain of human development and as the bridges to, and pillars of, the future, but as obscurant obstacles to self-centered pursuits.

Unfortunately, more often than not, parents must more than share the guilt for this anomaly. For just as the child has responsibilities towards its parents, the parents have definite duties and responsibilities towards their children. Foremost among the parent’s duties toward his offspring is to teach him Torah, to guide him and to prepare him for a committed and meaningful Torah-life.7

But though the failures of the parents in their duties is often causally related to the failures of the child, by no means does this exempt or excuse the child’s neglect of his own responsibilities.

The Torah decrees that where the parent neglects to teach his child, the child must teach himself, and on his own seek to acquire the knowledge essential to a life in accordance with the Torah.8

May this essay inspire its readers to bring to fruition the duties and ideals mentioned therein.

6 Tammuz 5728
J.I.S.

Footnotes
2.
Avot 2:1.
4.
Talmud, Avodah Zarah 18a.
5.
Rational in the sense of being an ethical principle that may be developed by human reason alone, unaided by religious instruction.
6.
Jerusalem Talmud, Peah 1:1.
7.
Talmud, Kiddushin 29a; Maimonides, Laws of Torah Study 1:1ff; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 245:1.
8.
Maimonides and Shulchan Aruch, ibid.
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Anonymous Israel December 6, 2012

Honoring parents & grandparents I am now 73 & I'm learning what it's like to be an "elder." Whether it's the parenting, or the media or teaching of values & morals, I don't know why. But it seems to me that grandchildren don't want grandparents, don't respect, visit or value anything said by grandparents. My husband died, my heart died within me, my children & grandchildren seem to have buried me with my husband. Of course, everyone has their own life & duties, but without the elders, they might never have been born at all. How does one make the younger generation appreciate what they could learn from their elders, even laugh at their stories? But it's hard to compete with all the games & texting on their IPod's. They seem addicted to them. I wonder why my 4 year old granddaughter said, "I don't like old people." I didn't like changing diapers either, but I did it with love. Reply

Bothwell Phiri Bulawayo September 13, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

You are a beautiful person for loving your children and grand children. Regardless of circumstances when a parent has taught their children well the torah they can't take responsibility for those children to live by it. That is the responsibility of those children and their children. May your days be filled with joy and may you resurrect from men's ordained burial before the L-rd's time. Reply

Anonymous Hamilton, ON, Canada August 17, 2011

re honoring parents For me this is not an over simplification, but it clearly has helped me to understand my relationship to my own parents. I am a gentile observing Noahide laws but still I recognize the value of the Torah and how it instructs me on every moral point. This article helps me to better understand that regardless of how my parents may have failed to teach me Torah I value the good they brought to me and as I joyfully pursue teaching myself, I share joy for life with them when I visit my now aged parents.

"But though the failures of the parents in their duties is often causally related to the failures of the child, by no means does this exempt or excuse the child’s neglect of his own responsibilities.

The Torah decrees that where the parent neglects to teach his child, the child must teach himself, and on his own seek to acquire the knowledge essential to a life in accordance with the Torah.

May this essay inspire its readers to bring to fruition the duties and ideals mentioned therein. Reply

Anonymous SF, CA November 28, 2008

honoring parents I believe that this brief article is, possibly by necessity because of it's brevity, an oversimplification of something extremely complex.

The accusation against parents, when the parents themselves in this generation come under the category of "captured children" is something that needs to be addressed.

Also, possibly addressing the errors of parents as possibly attributed to them being "forced" by a variety of circumstances into their parenting errors.
Perhaps this article was written before the author was a parent of adult children. Reply

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