Archive for Kibud Av/ Honoring Parents

The Ultimate Task of Parents


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.

Measure For Measure





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.


Honoring Parents


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!”

 The other kid says, “What have you got to worry about?  Sounds to me like you’ve got it made!”
Responds the first kid, “What if they try to escape?”
Any guy will confess (I actually took a survey) that the best years of his life when he was “still living at home”. No responsibility, being catered to and not having to worry about making a living is the way to go!! After all, it’s your own nest.
It seems like we really are dependent on our parents when we’re young. There is an old saying “one parent can take care of 10 kids however 10 kids can not take care of one parent.”
It’s very hard to fulfill the commandment of honoring one’s parents, especially when they’re old and cranky. Especially when one has the pressure of raising young children, a demanding wife and bills mounting endlessly. Many of us take pride in honoring parents, however, on occasion our patience is tested.
 Once, a son took his frustrations to an extreme.
 After his mother’s passing, the son moved the father in with him. He BaruchHashem had a growing family. The father had some medical issues, but the son with the right care took care of it. But juggling both family, work and an elderly father, who seemed like was blessed with longevity, became too challenging over the years. The loyal son became very impatient. Medical insurance was not covering all of the old man’s expenses. No matter how prosperous and modern thinking this country can be, it seems like it’s not prepared for the elderly. The son found himself behind the eight ball, in debt.
 Pressure makes a person think irrationally. He decided to take some time off. As a child, the father would always take him camping. The stressed out son decided to take his father for a ride to the mountains. Rest and relaxation is therapeutic sometimes. The road was extremely and dangerously narrow and he had to drive carefully. As he was reaching his destination, an impulsive, horrifying idea surfaced.  The son thought, “here is my opportunity” as they were camped at the edge of the mountain. Still he decided to see his father’s face one last time before he commits his act of desperation. He was taken aback seeing his father with a smile. Knowing that his father was a very smart man, he curiously asked, “Pop, why are you smiling?” The father answered back, “I did the same thing to my father”.
 The son felt a cold chill as he realized that how one treats one’s parent is how he will be treated. Quickly, he took he father out of danger.
The reward:
“You will have longevity” means your children will follow in your ways. They will be an extension of you. This is what every parent wants, for their offspring to be “a chip of the old block” . One long life translates into two generations of you.
In this week’s Parsha, Chukat, we learn a valuable lesson of how to perform the mitzvot- commandments for chukim, or, laws that have no rhyme or reason. We might think we know what the purpose of a certain commandment is, however, we cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of the action of the mitzvah; it’s not for us to understand, we just have to do it. The most famous example of a chok is the red cow. One has to approach a chok with the same enthusiasm as he does with the mitzvot that make logical sense, like mishpatim-logical laws.
However, we often think that we have a good understanding of certain basic logical mitzvot. This dangerously leads us to decisions of when and to what degree must we observe certain mitzvot in certain situations.
All commandments originate directly from Heaven, and man’s intellect cannot fathom the reasoning behind them. Yet, because he still tries to interpret the Torah through logic, the Torah is sometimes undermined. For example, if a rational reason for a mitzvah no longer applies, one will argue that it makes the commandment inapplicable.
 “Honor your father and your mother” is a classic example. It may come as a surprise, but truthfully “honor your father and your mother” in some cases doesn’t make sense.
 We learn that if one strikes his father or mother, he receives the death penalty. This law even applies to children who are estranged to their parents. Even though the parent was not active in raising the child, and in fact was detrimental to the progression of him/her, nevertheless, the child would still be liable with the strict punishment of death…… Why?!
It would make sense for such a harsh punishment to be administered if the parent raised the child, if the parent gave their heart and soul (which they are supposed to do), then the severe punishment is appropriate.
Logically, one might think an irresponsible parent would be an exception to the harsh punishment. Furthermore, Rabbi Oelbaum who quoted the Chayei Adam, strengthens the emotional aspect of the commandment saying “ONE DOESN’T FULFILL THE MITZVAH OF HONORING THEIR PARENT BY JUST CATERING TO THEIR  WISHES (LIKE BRINGING THEM TEA OR TAKING THEM TO DOCTORS. In order to fulfill the requirement, ONE HAS TO FIND IN THEM SOMETHING TO RESPECT, A POSITIVE TRAIT PERHAPS. THAT’S RIGHT, SOMETHING TO RESPECT WHICH DEFINES WHO THEY ARE…….THEN AND ONLY THEN WILL THE CHILDREN FULFILL THE COMMANDMENT OF  KABED ET AVICHA VEH ET IMECHA. In some cases, finding something good about a person is a difficult task. Nevertheless, that’s the requirement. KABED-respect- means to seek something that deserves just that.
However, fulfilling the commandment is applicable for ANY PARENT, whether deadbeat or not!! Seemingly, the commandment is wishy washy, there is seemingly no logic to the ruling!!!
G-d therefore gave us certain commandments (the red cow) which all would agree lack rational explanation. From these we may derive that the entire Torah must be treated with Divine status, even if we don’t understand the raionale.
There is a unique severity to the punishment of chok. We actually see this from last week’s parsha, Korach. Korach, who sought honor, complained “we all were at Mount Sinai, why is Aharon, your brother, the only High Priest. Let there be a monthly rotation”. This complaint was against G-d’s decree. When G-d created the sun and the moon, they were both the same size. The moon complained “how can two kings wear the same crown”. G-d punished the moon for complaining by making it smaller. The Talmud tells us a story about an Arab who once approached a Jewish sage and asked him to come with him, “I have to show you something” the Arab said. He then showed him a place in the dessert, a spot in the ground where smoke was coming out. Every 30 days one can here voices coming out proclaiming “Moshe and his Torah is the truth and we, Korach’s assembly, were wrong”. Interstingly, every 30 days, correlating with Korach’s complaint, the moon, which decreases in size, is at its smallest.Where would we be without our parents? They raised us and made us who we are. We were insensitive. We kept them up late by forgetting to call; they were worried for us. They grew a lot of gray hair worrying for their kids. BUT DON’T YOU HATE IT WHEN THEY MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY!!One day a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out of her brunette head. She looked at her mother and asked, “why are some of your hairs white, Mom?”
Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white”. The little girl thought about this for a while and then said, “Mommy, how come ALL of Grandma’s hairs are white?”
One can arrive at many logical conclusions as to why we perform certain mitzvot. However, at the end of the day, one has to believe and perform the mitzvot wholeheartedly,  regardless if it makes sense to him or not. This is a most difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, we have to remind ourselves that Judaism is a belief and belief comes from the heart.
Extracted from Rabbis Isaac Oelbaum, Baruch Dopelt , Yossi Bilus, Yitzchak Aminov Shli”ta.