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Honoring Mom & Dad

Honoring Mom & Dad

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Honoring parents is one of the select mitzvahs featured in the Ten Commandments. The Torah tells us, “Honor your father and mother,” and it tells us, “Honor your G‑d”—​implying that honoring parents is on par with honoring G‑d!

After all, no matter how much respect we give our parents, we can never repay them for their part in bringing us into this world. But that’s not the only reason to honor them: it’s also a mitzvah, and that’s reason enough.

Actually, two mitzvahs: honor and respect. What’s the difference?

Honor means:

  • Serve and assist your parents however possible and whenever necessaryWhen Mom or Dad enters, stand up. Remain standing until they sit down or are no longer within eyesight. Or they tell you to sit down.
  • Serve and assist your parents however possible and whenever necessary. Feed them, dress them and provide them with transportation.
    [If your parents can afford these things, you are not obligated to pay for them. In fact, parents feel better when they can support themselves financially.]

Respect means:

  • If your father or mother has a special place to sit, don’t sit there.
  • Don’t contradict your parents to their face. There’s always a discreet way to work with this. When not in their presence, you can express an opposing opinion, but in a respectful manner.
  • “I think you’re right, Dad!” is also disrespectful. Mom & Dad don’t require your approval.
  • Unless you are asked for your parent’s name, don’t call—or even refer—to your parents by name, even posthumously.

Technical Details:

  • Parents who are psychologically unstable must still be respected. If it’s getting just too hard, get hired help.
  • Parents can forgo honor due to them—for example, to allow children not to rise for them.
  • We are also obligated to respect stepparents, parents-in-law, grandparents and older siblings.
Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Linda Levy NY December 1, 2016

It was my honor I just buried my Father 9 weeks ago. As he laid in the grave, I told him "it was an honor taking care of you for 3 1/2 years. I wish I could have done it for a longer time."
It was the toughest & hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, but it was truly an honor to take care of my ill Father. I miss him severely. Reply

Anonymous Johannesburg February 23, 2016

Rabbi
Thank you for this most informative article
It caught my eye because of the content
I am sort of in the same position yet I'm not
Let me explain
For 33 years I grew up with my parents not knowing that I was adopted
Then a revelation came
My aunt slipped up and told my wife
She begged my wife not to tell me but my wife felt she had to because if I found out from another source and I found out that she had concealed the fact from me it would have been instant divorce
My aunt never forgave my wife for a long time for spilling the beans
How ever
I'm blessed with a truly wonderful wife and she was very supportive of me
I will admit it was a MAJOR SHOCK to me but I resolved that even though I knew I would not say anything to my dad
My mom had passed away 4 years before that
I was closer to my dad in the last three months of his last life than I had been for the previous 33 years
I mean he WAS MY DAD AND SHE WAS MY MOM
I never new anyone else
The shock came three months later Reply

Bubbe Chicago February 5, 2015

Respecting Elders (Parents and Inlaw Parents Dear Rabbi,

We are blessed to have children who respect us but one of our sons-in-law seems
to be oblivious to the concept of respecting us. For example, not only does he not forego sitting in our favorite chairs even though he is aware that we both have back issues, but he also to our face dismisses what we say about anything. This latter action has become not only hurtful to us because his manner of dismissal is blunt and loud, but also embarrassing when he does this when our grandchildren are present. Even though we are aware that his behavior and attitude are ego-protections for him because he cannot accept that we have knowledge beyond both his years and his education level, we are finding the behavior and attitude more difficult to ignore.. We want to enjoy happy and loving family gatherings again. How can we work toward this, when ignoring the problem has not lesssened it in the four years since he entered our family? Reply

Anonymous February 5, 2015

Ok, I get that...honor one's parents. Suppose one's parents have neglected their child or has physically,mentally and spiritually abused that child...we are still supposed to honor them..when ones parent has wished the child dead?
Only a true saint would be able to honor such parents. Reply

Swan California April 1, 2014

Anon in Prescott is wrong Anon in Prescott, you say abusive parents are still someone's parent.
While this is technically true, I believe that parents who are abusive make the commandment to honor invalid. Victims are no longer bound to it if they suffered abuse. I would like to know why there is so much talk about honoring your parents while no one considers the victims side. Is honoring an abuser more important than validating the victim and helping him guiltlessly cut contact with his abuser (who also happens to be genetically related?) If you still are not convinced, look up a news story out of Texas today. They showed pictures of a 5 year old boy taken from his mom. She intentionally starved him, kept him locked in a dark room under a staircase and made him wear a diaper. The pictures of him looked like the pictures of Holocaust victims. When that little boy grows up, G-d forbid that our creator begrudges him for not honoring his parent. I believe that Hashem is more loving and understanding than that. Reply

Anonymous May 3, 2012

May - honoring parents - the bad dad If it were me i would tell them that my dad might be in the early stages of dimentia, overworked, always cranky, etc. It's not really a lie because it might be true. Something has to explain his petty behaviour. Sounds like you have great friends. If you describe your father as a little off, maybe they will take rachmunis and apologize, even though they may have been on the right side of the argument. Reply

Vitaliy portland, or May 1, 2012

Honoring my parents?
Dear Rabbi
How can i balance my respect and honor to my parents when my father was very rude and disrespectful to my guests the other day and told me that from now on we can even be friends with my guests because they by the way very respectfully dared disagree on some minor issue with my parents and it caused that whole confrontation with my my father even though he started it and absolutely ignored how respectfully they tried to present their point of view ... those people have been long time honest and loyal friends of ours and always lent a had when we needed help or anything and i dont want to lose their friendship over this artificial argument initiated by my father ... please, advise how to do a mitzvah of honoring my parents and at the same time to keep my friends .. Todah raba. Reply

Jaacov Medford, MA March 14, 2012

The Components of Honor First, I would like to thank everyone for sharing their personal stories. It gives me a relief that I am not alone in struggling with this. Thank you!

I do struggle with the full comprehension of this concept-G-D willing I can understand-We typically see that love & fear combined lead to the proper honor- what I take away; is that the fear is not fear of person or fear of HaShem-it is based on the fear of DISAPPOINTMENT; if this is true...the disappointment inferes to the inclusion of love..
So when you have again little to no genuine love for the person(s) and little to no fear of any type of disappointments...how true if is the honor we give? Reply

Anonymous Oslo, Norway December 9, 2011

Ways to show honour and respect Reading the interpretation of the commandment connected me to feelings and memories. Both good and bad.

Standing up etc, is very different from how my generation is brought up by parents that were children under 2 world war. My parents, and also most of the social environment in scandinavian countries now resists beeing conformative. I think this is because it is assosiated with "milliary behavior" from the nazist, assosiated with the blind obidience which made it possible for the dictators to make obidient young boys turn off their thinking and be cruel when they were told by persons over.

Maybe we now have gone to far in opposite direction. The parents of my grandparents, born in 18-centr, where raised up in behaviour norms, standing etc (they lived long too, nearly a hundred years, all of them mostly healthfully), I got to know all four ladies and one grand grand father also. They where not at all millitarylike, but we respected them with dignity... and did raise before them. Reply

james benchimol pierrefonds, quebec via chabadcsl.com December 8, 2011

honoring parents Grieving the loss of a parent is more natural than a parent grieving for a child. I was my mother's care giver, she observed me into this world I observed her going into the next life, every day is a new discovery, the grieving process takes hard work, of honesty, shedding pain from anger towards compassion.. Be good to yourself, amen G-d bless, G-d Bless Reply

Anonymous December 3, 2011

Waver a command or Waiver Dec 3 , 2011 Nobody is waiving commandment # 5. It does not say love. It sounds like you have fabulous children who are amazing and understanding. Mazel Tov and no doubt you are the one who is responsible. But it gives you no right to discredit those children who cannot stand their parent, or G-d forbid, both parents, on account of the horrid treatment they endured, and then have to live with.

Thank G-d there are parents like Anon Delray Beach Dec. 1, 2011 who have adopted and provide love for their children. Like s/he contends, being a sperm/egg donor does not entitle that parent to receive love. There are many parents who are not worthy. Some have children only because that is what society expects. Not everyone should go forth and multiply. Why are Jewish Child and Family Welfare organizations so busy ? And take note of the words Child and Welfare. The kids do not lack food. They lack love. And if they cannot return love, why expect them to ? You cannot force a child to love a horrid parent. Reply

Anonymous Prescott, AR/US December 3, 2011

Waver? How can you waver a command?
I don't think so.

Even if the parent is abusive, they are your parent. You can remove yourself from the situation if it becomes unbearable, or if you see a child in that situation help them to be removed from that situation.

My first husband did many things which caused our children to loose that perfect love and respect for him. (Mental and Moral issues) He was a big disappointment, over and over again. However, I have observed that they still maintain contact with him, and give him support and encouragement....from a distance. (They are adults now.) I have been pleased to see how they handle it. They keep their visits short, but they will use phone and e-mail type contacts plentiful. It makes it much easier for them to manage emotionally.
Sometimes we learn from our "kids"...as I have learned from observing mine...that we can "love" very difficult and stubborn people. We have to handle with care...like the thorns on a rosebush. Reply

Anonymous Delray Beach, FL December 1, 2011

Honoring Parents Please forget the "we can never repay them for their part in bringing us into this world." It clearly says that those who didn't actually produce the child physically are not really parents,thus not worthy of honor.. Those of us who adopted our children are no less parents than those who contributed their DNA. Reply

Anonymous December 1, 2011

Honoring parents Nov. 30 2011 Honoring yes. If nothing else your parents brought you into this world, and so even though they may have been nothing but ignorant in their parenting and social and teaching skills and abusive, if nothing else, they were your sperm and egg donors. Love is not used in commandment #5. It must be earned and in most cases it is. But far too common it is not. You cannot force love. There are far too many stories of childhood misery that last a lifetime on account of an unfit parent or parents. The children who suffered these experiences must be honored and loved by the rest of us. That is why there is a commandment to love your fellow man. Not all of us do. Not all parents do, Jews and non-Jews alike. Fortunately society reached a point where social services are able to intervene and protect the innocent. Reply

your friend rivka s (* use this name or anon) ic , ia via chabadiowacity.com December 1, 2011

when they are loosing abillities.... It's so hard to deal with things like a slew of complaints from across the country from ppl SCARED of my dad's driving for him and ma. I need to call someone and let them do the dirty work, I need to be anonymous. But I need to do something to potentially save a life. Also dad needs help and denies it, messes up his meds and ma, will call social services...(jewish)tomorrow.. and maybe motor vehicles...not to would cause danger but it's so hard not to look like i have no respect when i do those things which i must...but i do...so...nu...so hard. welcome advice. thanks. they really need care...you've heard this from me. healing and love to all btw they are 87 and 88...a scary time to be independent and mess up meds...vey is mir!! thanks Reply

Abdul Ghafoor Lahore, Pakistan December 1, 2011

Honouring Parents It is words of G-d, can not be denied, Whatsoever the conditions may be, Parents are always loved, respected, honoured and helped by all means. Reply

Glo Seal Beach, Ca. USA November 30, 2011

When the 5th commandment can be 'waivered'.. In my ever so humble opinion: Whenever parents are abusive the child need not respect nor honor them! Reply

Anonymous November 30, 2011

Chryl - nov.30, 2011 Yes you most certainly deserve respect, no question.

May i give some Kabbalh/sefirot advice on how to move to the next step, love from your grandchild. It is not in Commandment #5.

What Judaism teaches is that you use your stronger right hand / Chesed/Lovingkindness at all times unless your ' son ' is going to bring himself harm, such as putting his finger in an electric socket. Then you apply discipline as lightly as possible from your weaker left hand/Gevurah, say a light tap on the hands.

At the same time you must build up a Hod - Netzach bond of trust ( Actually it might be Hod-Sod bond i can't recall ). It is from this trust bond that the Chesed-Gevurah bond works best. You 'son' must trust you before you can really teach him about things. It is the same as the trust you have in G-d. You must have that steely cold resolve of trust in G-d before you can have faith in Him.

Mazel and Bruchas to you. Reply

Mrs. Cheryl Owings November 30, 2011

Honoring parents We raised our only grandchild from birth because his mother didn't want him and abandoned him. His dad's work schedule didn't permit him to be a full time dad. Because of situations like this, I feel we take the place of natural parents and deserve the respect due us. Reply

Anonymous November 30, 2011

Commandment #5 The remarks in the comment of July 16, 2011 still ring true.

Commandment #5 says honour and respect. Thankfully, it does not say love, and as far as i can see, it did not intend to. Reply