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Honoring Mom & Dad

Honoring Mom & Dad


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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Discussion (37)
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.
Linda Levy
February 23, 2016
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 never new anyone else
The shock came three months later
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
portland, or
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 true if is the honor we give?
Medford, MA
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.
Oslo, Norway
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
james benchimol
pierrefonds, quebec