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