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The Religious Aspect of Honoring Parents

The Religious Aspect of Honoring Parents


An implicit allusion to the deeper significance of the command to "honor your father and your mother" is detected in the very context in which this command appears. It appears as one of the Ten Commandments.

Moreover, within the Decalogue itself it is part of the first of the two tablets. This is rather significant. For though all of the Decalogue is of Divine origin (as is the whole Torah), the precepts on the first tablet deal with typically religious matters of the man-G‑d relationship.

The Mitzvos on the second tablet deal with the matters related to intra-human relationships. One would expect the fifth commandment to be grouped in the latter five as it, too, seems to deal with a matter of social concern. In fact, however, it is adjoined to the first four which are of purely religious nature.

The classic commentators already noted this and offer various interpretations [Cf. Hadar Zekenim; Ramban; Abarbanel; and others.].

Some suggest that this draws attention to the parents' role as those who provide their children with the proper guidance with respect to their religious obligations. But there is a still more profound allusion which is independent of the post-natal parental involvement and centers on the creative capacity of the parents only.

The child-parent relationship is analogous to, and intricately bound up in, the man—G‑d relationship. This is so because in bringing a child into this world the parents are in a partnership with G‑d: the material substance is derived from the parents, while G‑d grants spirit and soul, the vital form of man [See Kidushin 30b; Nidah 31a.].

The fifth of the Ten Commandments implicitly suggests awareness of one's origin, cognizance of one's raison d'etre, and grateful acknowledgment of one's resources.

Awareness of the parents' role as creative agents leads to contemplation on, and recognition of, the ultimate Creator and Provider of all: G‑d. Acknowledgment and gratitude will then extend from the immediate and visual tangiblilities to such as one comes to recognize only after some meditation.

For this reason G‑d accounts honor shown to parents as though it were shown to Himself; and conversely, the neglect to honor parents is regarded as an insult to G‑d [Mechilta on Exodus 20:12; Sifra on Lev 19:3.].

That is why this commandment appears in the middle of the Decalogue: it mediates between the first four and the latter five precepts because it is related to both groups. It is as much a religious principle as it is a social one.

Proper behavior towards parents is seen as a logical rung in the ladder leading to the proper behavior toward our Father in Heaven and the realization of the ultimate purpose of man. He who heeds his parents as he should may be assumed to heed other religious obligations as well [See Zohar III:81b.].

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Simcha Bart for April 4, 2017

I am so sorry to hear about this.

I assume you are referring to an adult child - in such a case it is not you who needs to do anything.

Too often parents are fearful of alienating their children that they overlook bad behavior and bend over backward to make sure their children like them - that can reinforce the negative behavior.

You need to be very clear that you will not accept such behavior from anyone, especially not your own child. This means setting clear boundaries. They need to know and expect that if they persist in acting in such a manner, you will not be able to continue speaking with them etc. Hopefully, this will be a catalyst for change that they will realize that they need to act differently towards you.


Anonymous Spokane, Wash April 5, 2017
in response to Simcha Bart for :

Thank you l believe what you said was correct and trying to be kind no matter what was the cause. It will be hard to change but as you said it is the only way. My daughter has more of this problem than l do but l could use this advise too. So glad you are here, my daughter asked me to ask you, she will be visiting them next week. Genny Reply

Anonymous Spokane April 1, 2017

How does a parent treat a child who is mean and spiteful to them , even though the parent has tried very hard to establish a good relationship. Reply

Simcha M Bart for LOS ANGELES February 26, 2016

Honoring parents who are not alive We are taught that there are many ways we need to honor our parents even after they have passed from this world.
1. When we mention them, we do not mention them by name - just as we would not say their name while they were alive.
2. We also mention that their memory should be blessed.
3. On the anniversary of their passing - Yahrtzeit, we do good deeds in their merit, giving charity, reciting Kaddish (or arranging for someone to recite Kaddish) studying Torah for their souls merit.
4. Similarly, we recite the special Yizkor service and give charity in their honor during certain annual services - see here for info about this.
5. Finally, by living a righteous life we honor them. The Zohar says "After their passing, he is obliged to honor him more... a son who walks in the path of righteousness... He brings honor to him in this world in the eyes of men, and brings honor to him in the world to come before the Holy One, blessed be He..." Reply

Anonymous Alaska February 19, 2016

How to do it when ones parents arnt living? How can one do this when ones parents arnt living?
I lost my parents very young before I had much understanding in these matters..
Can I do this by honoring another older person who has no one to honor them? Someone who was estranged from their kids? Reply

Anonymous Toronto October 6, 2015

Who ever said King David said an eye for an eye is wrong. Jewish people do not want or promote war. We simply defend our right to live. We do not believe in honour killing or killing ( G- d forbid ) of any kind. We simply have the right to defend ourselves for the right to live. We have the right to live long happy healthy prosperous non violent lives free of descrimination persecution bullying violence & destruction. B' H Reply

dee January 14, 2010

Reverence and Honor....tailored ! Thank you, once more, for this teaching and information. I questioned specific examples to better reverence my mother...but I see at different points in time the needs and opportunities of one set of parent-child may differ from anothers...From this fact , and the supreme
importance of the relationship to G-d, I think i see that loving and repaying, and meeting the need, as understood, might be how to apply the commandment, and priviledge of honoring our parents that gave us life for the soul and spirit of G-d and His kingdom.
What an improtant and helpful teaching.
Thank you for your insight and knowledge,and work. Reply

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