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The Meaning of Honor

The Meaning of Honor


What constitutes honor? One must provide them with food and drink, clothing and garments, to conduct them home and take them out, and rise before them. And one must provide them with all their needs cheerfully: even if one should feed them daily the most delectable foods but does so with ill grace, one incurs Divine punishment. And conversely, if one makes his father do hard labor but the intention is good, viz. to save him from a worse fate — and he appeases his father by showing him that his intention is good — one inherits the world to come.

Also, one must perform for parents all such services as a servant performs for his master; and one is duty bound to render personal services even at personal expense.

To what lengths should the duty of honoring parents go? Even were they to take his purse full of gold, and cast it into the sea in his presence, he must not shame them, manifest grief in their presence, or display any anger, but accept the Divine decree without demur! [Shulchan Aruch, ibid, 240:4ff.]

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Anonymous November 28, 2014

family Family should be the biggest investment of Jews. Spending time with family , parents and grandparents when one can afford it will bring joy like nothing else. Generational values will be given in this way and the lessons that they have learned are also transmitted. Reply

Swan California April 1, 2014

Always question To preface my comment-- I am a Jew and also a mental health professional. If you take the above interpretation of this commandment literally, it would appear that child abuse is being institutionalized all in the name of hashem. While I believe that adults should ensure that their parents are fed, clothed, and sheltered, I believe that obligation ends there when the (now) adult was abused by their parents. I have counseled far too many Jewish adults who grew up in abusive homes and whose parents continue to emotionally abuse them and wreak havoc on their lives into adulthood. It's as if these parents want to destroy their children emotionally, all while using the "honor card" to ensure that their adult child continues to be available for more abuse. I love G-d and I love man, but I also believe that when relationships hurt, a person is allowed to cease contact with the person who harms them. Please don't send an invalidating message to victims by implying that honor has no limitations. Reply

Jacqueline December 31, 2017
in response to Swan:

Thank you, I needed this. Reply

Linda NC August 9, 2013

Perhaps as we are healed ( freed) from our abuse by forgiving regardless of the outcome. Hashem turns our hearts towards the abusive person and we can see their need for restoration, we bless them and pray for them. This wonderful grace that is extended will be received Reply

Mustapha Ahmad nigeria March 5, 2013

Can someone explain to me what is the difference between honour and ordinary? Reply

Anonymous London, UK April 9, 2012

Honouring ones parents I was brought up by an abusive mother and a father who just looked on. Now that I have kids of my own I realise that honouring one's parents comes naturally if your parents have honoured you (as we do our children). The best way, therefore, to honour your parents (indirectly) is to honour your children and they will honour you! A lesson that may be late but never too late for the parents to see. I have done it and it worked! The ten commandments assume that the children have been honoured and Hashem then asks the children to return the compliment! Always remember your parents on birthdays and holidays: your parents will learn from you! Reply

Anonymous Tarzana, Ca November 29, 2011

Response to my last response Yes I agree, "thinking for yourself is a defense tool that is very much needed to survive this world."
I also agree that reducing one into feeling worthless can require help to regain an understanding of our inherent worth.
As far as the comment which mocks my ideas and point, ""Think for themselves"...funny. You should do some charity work at an orphanage some day, and listen to their stories...I bet you worn't last one whole day.""
I would have to think that I deserve more honor and respect then my ideas are wrong, maybe I have valid & great points that you do not understand yet. As to say I won't last one day in an orphanage, I would have to respectfully disagree, and say I do not think you know me to give me advice on where I would and would not thrive. In recognizing my value I know I could give great service in an orphanage. Who knows maybe I could do as great of service in an orphanage as you did. To honor ourselves and others thoughts, our inherent value must be understood Reply

Joheved 91423, CA November 27, 2011

Response to the last comment Thinking for yourself is a defense tool that is very much needed to survive this world. It is a lesson that a parent must provide to prepare their children however, when one is deprived of this lesson, or is stripped from it (obviously for "control" reasons,whatever it may be) it is very hard to come out of any kind of oppression...after all the victim is taught (by all mean necessary) , like a slave, to never use logic, but only DO as the agressor says. This is obviously not a black and white issue, and is not as "easy as 123." Reducing one into feeling worthless is a very long process, and therefore takes years, if not never to help them recover up to the light from the dark hole they always perceived as home. "Think for themselves"....funny. You should do some charity work at an orphanage some day, and listen to their stories...I bet you worn't last one whole day. Reply

Anonymous Tarzana, ca November 27, 2011

Response to Honour Means My martial art teacher used to teach me to obey every single command he gave, which I thought was respect, but after further inspection I realized this is pride and a false sense of honor. Taken to the extreme, if someone orders you to kill a Jew as senior officers did in the concentration camps, would you do it, simply because it is an order from an authority? Honour does not mean to obey everything everyone tells you. Honour means to listen, to try to understand, and to respect others opinions as having value, even if they are not your own. You do not need to believe or listen to what everyone says, including parents, we all have our own will and parents can be wrong. Some parents insults their kids, a kid does not need to listen to that. It is honorable though to try to listen to them to try and gain insight from their words, in the end we need to honor ourselves and think for ourselves, isn't this the same honour you would want others to have as well, to think for themselves. Reply

Yoheved Sherman Oaks, CA November 20, 2011

Child Abuse by the parents I'm quite aware and respect the laws of the Torah when it comes to the honor and respect of the ones that gave you life however, what defines a "mother and father" Anyone can conceive a child (unfortunately). What about the innocent children who were abused, neglected, and betrayed by the very ones that the Torah says to respect? The ones the children originally trusted for safety and love, and never got? This law is so misused and especially manipulated by the abusers themselves. Reply

Rabbi Zalman Nelson Tsfat, Israel October 6, 2011

Honoring an abusive parent Honoring parents in your situation is way down the list, far after taking care of yourself and ensuring you have the wellbeing and security your parents were supposed to provide but didn't.

Start with this article and let me know what questions or support you need.

Daniel Legum September 20, 2011

They are not worthy of honor under jewish law, look despite your parents, feeling like you wish you where not born is something where you should probably get therapy for. But I have one tip: there is much more to your life then your abusive parent, try to find stuff you enjoy doing. Reply

Anonymous NY, USA September 19, 2011

Honor your parents?? How can I honor an abusive parent? Can someone please explain it to me? I wish I wasn't born. Reply

Anonymous meriden, ct December 14, 2010

honor what about parents that have done ill to us through abuse......They were the victims of abuse also,and as a result, they continued a cycle of abuse that i'm trying to break through prayer and counseling.... Reply

Joseph Budapest, Hungary February 5, 2010

hierarchy of loyalities I think, that this commandment should not be interpreted as the first and only one and its fulfiling must be harmony with all the 613. Of course, the parents are G-d's vessels to become a living human being, but every parent (being not the Creator, but His vessel) has responsibilities toward his or her kid, too. Our first loyalty is to G-d, second to our spouse, third to our children and then, fourth to our parents, etc.. So, we shall do according to these loyalties. We are humans and not machines, our life, our capabilities and means are limited. But we have free choice to do well, if we have freedom. If our parents take away the freedom granted by G-d to us, what will remain our humanity? Reply

Melodi Duncanville November 23, 2009

Honour means... I am wrestling with a tough decision involving my father and mother. They have given me council, but do not know the full situation. I have been raised to believe honor means obey every suggestion, but after some study on my own it seems like it means something more along the lines of revere, respect, value. I am torn between what I know is right, and what they are telling me to do. Reply

joanna manchester, england September 24, 2009

honour I shall post this on the back of my daughters door hoping she will read this. Reply

Anonymous April 4, 2009

Honoring Parents This topic is very helpful. I would like to see something done for the children to understand. Reply

Anonymous Tustin, Ca December 22, 2008

Honoring Thy Father and Mother I believe to honor they Father and Mother means to know they Father and Mother.

I have wrestled with how people are to honor their parents when the parents performed the most horrific actions against their children.

I believe you should learn about your parents and come to know your parents, and know your parents’ parents, and on and on. Know your family history, your family tree. Learn how your ancestors treated one another. Learn how they lived and what was happening in the world during their lifetime.

By doing this you will know how, and come to understand why, your parents behave as they do. By understanding them, you may come to forgive them.

Ultimately, what greater gift of honor could you give your parents than understanding them and knowing them.

Know your parents, know where you have come from, and you know yourself… honor. Reply

mordecai August 27, 2008

Deut. 31;8 katee;

Thank you for your kind thoughts. Interesting that you should suggest Deut. 31:8 which states that G-D will not forsake me. One of my favorite Psalms is 22 which asks why G-D has forsaken me.

This of course is followed by the famous 23rd Psalm which seems to me to be strategically juxtapositioned after the somewhat harsh 22nd Psalm. Thus succor follows the storm.

I pray each day but not with the "joy" of the Chassidim but with the crying that Isaac Luria felt was indispensible.

In any case I am a work in progress neither holier than thou nor self-deprecating. Reply

Katee August 25, 2008

Difficulty of this commandment Mordecai... Quote: "Honor thy father and Mother." I feel lilke I am losing my mind as a consequence of the dysfunctionality of my father and mother."

I have felt that way my self - my mother has serious mental illnesses and my dad had luekimia for almost 3 yrs.

My greatest comfort usually comes from the Psalms but the one that gives me the most even to this day is from Deuteronomy 31:8.

Shalom, my brother! You have a sister who is praying for you. Reply

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