One should know and realize by looking at the tablets that half contain man’s relationship with G-d while the other half represents man’s relationship with his fellow man. If one examines it closely however, one will notice “honoring your father and your mother” is placed in the wrong column – on the side that represents man’s relationship with G-d. Clearly, as far as I’m concerned, parents are humans and they belong on the other side of the tablets. Perhaps the designer thought it would look awkward having six and four placed on the Aron Kodseh (place where you keep the Torahs). Five and five look much better and even; it gives more presence to the Synagogue, especially the fancy shmancy ones.
We read in Psalms, which was written by King David; (Sefardim read it daily while the Ashkenazim recite it the month before Rosh Hashanah). “My father and mother have left me but I still have you, G-d”. We can deduce from the Psalm that King David relied heavily on G-d. We can also detect David missing his parents. But that’s kind of odd; before he was anointed King, there was a concern that he might have been illegitimate. Yishai, his father, wasn’t sure David was his son. At best, they had a cold relationship. Although one may argue that any doubt about the legitimacy of Yishai being David’s father was put to rest after the Prophet Shmuel anointed David, and a loving father and son relationship developed. However, David was on the run, whether being chased by King Shaul or whatever wars he fought. Furthermore, David’s parents and brothers (except for one) were massacred by the Moabites. So as far as David’s relationship with his father, what’s there that he missed so much that triggered him to make such a statement?
Any one of the readers who have had the experience of taking care of elderly parents realized that as long as they were alive, one felt the parent was taking care of them even though the opposite was true. The son or daughter paid all the bills and they would escort them to their medical appointments because they would not be able to go by themselves. In fact, my father once said when a person becomes old he reverts back to being a child. Even so, apparently as soon as they pass on, the children feel abandoned; they have an uneasy feeling of losing that nurturing parent.
Belief and trusting G-d requires one to fully rely on Him. How does one develop that ability? This is accomplished by practicing the concept of “leaning on and trusting” through the parents. They are there so we can really on them. They fed and clothed us and took us to school when we were young; they taught us about life. The college tuition was paid and they let us borrow the car. We look up to them until a certain time where then they pass the baton to G-d and we rely on Him fully. It may take twenty years or forty, but it’s inevitable.
This is the reason “honoring parents” is on the same side of man/G-d relationship. G-d and parents are part and parcel in bringing out in us the feeling of trust and having being taken care of and that the ultimate and optimal feeling one has to have to G-d.
Archive for Kibud Av/ Honoring Parents
Germany in the 1930’s was known as a very cultural society. The Jews of Germany were so in love with its elegance, grace and blah blah blah that they considered themselves Germans first and Jews second; sounds familiar? One may wonder how can a society like that can turn to be cruel, brutal, and barbaric, which no one has seen in the history of mankind?
We read a few weeks ago after the miraculous crossing of the sea by our ancestors, that “they saw”, then “they feared”, then “they believed”. It seems like fear is part of the equation. Fear is part and parcel of belief. However, fear and religion – according to American taste – doesn’t get many brownie points. It’s not a popular word when associated with religion. In fact, I’m not going to title this article with that “word” in it. Hey, I got to sell this, don’t I? Americans like a slow song guitar playing spiritual orah, kumsitz style; or getting the spiritual high from appreciating the good things in life, like a good kiddush, a good meal combined with some good Torah learning. Personally, I’m all for that and that’s how I feel one can grow through the appreciation of all the wonderful things G-d has given us. However, we have to have a little fear; little just a little. I’d like to explain this through the following story. Although it’s a bit crude, it makes an effective point.
There was a father and son who had a nice relationship. At age 5, the boy got a racing car from his father. A number of years later, the boy received a bicycle for his birthday. After borrowing the family car too many times, the father decided to get a second vehicle and the boy ceremoniously declared it his. As time marched on, the son got married and had kids. The father, in the meantime, reaches an age where health is an issue and the doctor visits are more frequent. Years later, the son has to accompany the father to the medical facilities. It seems like the father has reached an age where he can’t take care of himself and the son has to put him into a home. The insurance doesn’t cover everything; it’s Medicare. However, the son and the father have some money saved up.
In today’s times, people live longer than in the past and the father has survived a good number of years at the home but the cost is a bit expensive and the family resources ran out. Therefore, he had to move back in with the son. He received plastic plates while the rest of the family was eating on the nice porcelain because of the possibility of him breaking it. It was very hard; the father became irritable and the son just the same.
One day, the son, although carefully planned, had an idea. He said to his father “Father, we’re going on a trip, you and me”. He takes him for a long ride on top of this huge mountain. After a nice walk, they get to the edge of the cliff. Just then, as he’s ready to push his father off the cliff, he notices his father smiling. He says to himself, my father is a very smart man. Let me ask him about his reaction. “Father I know you know why I brought you here, why are you smiling?” The father replied, “Because I did the same thing to my father”.
The son didn’t go through with the plan because of the fear of measure for measure in which his children will react the same.
A person can be educated, be cultured, and have elegance and class, but when G-d puts him in an extremely difficult predicament, he can turn into the cruelest animal one cannot even imagine. The one attribute that will prevent him from going to the extreme behavior mode is fear. The son was ready to kill his father out of frustration, but held himself back because of fear of measure for measure. What’s the expression? What goes around comes around.
Two kids are talking to each other. One says, “I’m really worried. My dad works twelve hours a day to give me a nice home and good food. My mom spends the whole day cleaning and cooking for me. I’m worried sick!”