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Yitro(Exodus 18-20)

God and Your Parents

Parshat Yitro tells of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The commandments were written on two tablets, but there was a distinct difference: The first tablet contained mitzvot between people and God - e.g., "Believe in God," "Don't worship other gods," "Don't take God's Name in vain." The second tablet contained mitzvot between people and people - e.g., "Don't steal" and "Don't murder."

One of the Ten Commandments is to "Honor Your Parents." We would expect this to appear on the second tablet, along with the other mitzvot between people and people. But it doesn't. Honoring parents appears on the first tablet. Why?

The reason is that the parent-child relationship is a metaphor for the human relationship to God. From the moment of infancy, the way a parent acts toward their child, forms in the child's consciousness a paradigm for how God relates to us.

Therefore the primary role of a parent is to communicate to the child that he is loved and cherished ... unique and special ... cared for and protected. For that is how God cares about each one of us.

I once heard the story of a father who set his young son up on a ledge, and told him to jump. "I'll catch you," said the father. So the boy jumped - but the father stepped back, letting the child fall to the ground. As the boy looked up with tears in his eyes, the father said: "I wanted to teach you an important lesson: That you can never trust anyone!"

This is the exact opposite of what the Torah wants us to teach our children. Above all, a parent must give the child a deep sense of security, and implant the subconscious knowledge that with God, you are never alone.

Published: February 11, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Anonymous, January 18, 2014 10:41 PM

I failed

The man who raised me was very much like the person you described allowing the child to fall unprotected. I survived. I learned to trust that G-d is. I really struggled to show my only child, my son that he was loved, wanted, protected and special, I brought him up as best as I could following the scripture, but recently he let me know he has chosen not to believe in G-d, I failed and don't understand how.

(5) Anonymous, January 31, 2013 5:26 AM

I do not agree ... security defines a level of guaranteed comfort. But we know there are a lot of horrific circumstances daily where this security is violated

(4) Jane, February 4, 2010 3:03 AM

This was as I see it, but now more clearly.

My dad was far from the best dad. I try to focus on the good in him. He did not hold women in high regard, and he was hard on everyone in the family, except for a ne'er-do-well brother (not so unusual). To Emailer # 3, it sounds like you do the best you can to show your father respect. I hope your children understand. It would be a shame if they imitated your behavior, directing it at you, because of a lack of insight. Raising chilldren is a risky endeavor. You never know what the end result will be, despite our best efforts. Thank God that we always have God, for there is no guarantee we will have the children, or their understanding.

(3) Anonymous, February 9, 2009 2:40 PM

You Can't Always Honor Your Parent

I grew up in a home with a narcissistic controlling father. He would abuse my mother, sister and me both physically and emotionally. We were give little independence and choices in our lives. I can understand why he is the way he but have chosen not to speak to him. After giving him many chances and getting hurt more each time I decided enough is enough. I still respect him and when people in the community would ask questions I would simply tell them it was between the two of us rather than go and bad mouth him. It has been almost 9 years and I do not feel bad or guilty as I was never malicious. It was something that I had to do.

(2) Lynne Eutsler, February 9, 2009 12:45 PM

Forever true no matter what happened, is happening, or will happen

I loved the lesson. If you will notice, G-d did not qualify what type of parent. He only gave the commandment, or saying. It is really about you, and your spiritual health, and welfare. thank you, Lynne

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