Family Parsha Parshat V'etchanan: The Fifth Commandment
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V'etchanan(Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

The Fifth Commandment


This week's Torah portion tells us the Ten Commandments. The fifth of those is to honor our parents (Deut. 5:16). Our parents are people to whom we literally owe our lives. Honoring parents means treating them with special respect and trying to do as they ask of us for no other reason than because they're our parents. (By the way, another incentive is: the Torah tells us that those who treat their parents right will live a longer life!)

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In our story, a kid has an experience that helps her see her parents in a new light.

PARENTAL GUIDANCE

"Emily, I would greatly appreciate it if you would please..."

Emily made a pained expression and looked up from her book as if she was in great agony. She gave a huge sigh.

"What do you want me to do now, mother?" she moaned.

"It's already 5 o'clock, Em. You're supposed to vacuum the upstairs hallway today, remember? Daddy will be home shortly and I'd like it to be done before he gets home. Oh, by the way, I have some great news..."

"Again? You're always asking me to do stuff around here. Don't we have a cleaning lady? What do you pay her for? Do I look like a maid?"

Mrs. Greenberg opened her mouth to speak but could think of nothing to overcome her surprise. She watched Emily storm off and wondered how she was going to tell Emily about the interesting conversation she'd had just a few moments before.

Mrs. Greenberg's dear friend was looking for a mother's helper for two weeks. Their whole family was going away on vacation, and she would need another pair of hands. Would Emily be interested? At the time, Mrs. Greenberg thought she would be, but now she was much less certain.

After Emily finished, she settled down to her book again. She saw her mother approaching her once more and sighed extravagantly. "More chores?"

"Well, not exactly. Cousin Judy called, and said she's looking for a mother's helper to bring with her to the country for two weeks. It's a lot of work and responsibility, so I'm just going to call her back and tell her you're not interested at all..."

Emily shot up like a rocket. "What do you mean I'm not interested? Of course I'm interested. How could you think I wouldn't be? Let's call Aunt Judy back right now and tell her I'm coming!"

Once again, Mrs. Greenberg found herself speechless. Would she ever understand?

The two weeks passed by more quickly than Emily could have imagined. She washed dishes, swept up, made beds and took care of the kids with great enthusiasm. In the afternoon they all went to the pool and had a great time. Aunt Judy was very strict and wouldn't allow Emily to take her eyes off the little ones for even a moment while they were at the pool, so Emily was especially conscientious.

The day before they were set to leave, Emily and Aunt Judy were packing up the kitchen and chatting.

"Oh, Aunt Judy, I had the best time. Thank you so much for bringing me along!"

"Thank me? Thank you! You did a wonderful job. I bet you're anxious to get home, though."

"Weeell, I wouldn't say anxious exactly. It's so hard at home. Rules, chores, my parents make me work so hard. My time is really not my own there."

"But Emily, that sounds pretty much like what you've been doing here, and you've been so gracious about it. You haven't complained over one thing I've asked you to do!"

"I know, but it's different here. Here it's a job and I have to do it. You're paying me, giving me free room and board and everything. I have to earn my keep!"

Aunt Judy smiled. "True, but if you think about it for a moment longer, you'd realize that your parents give you much, much, more than I do. They've fed, clothed and taken care of you all your life - never mind that they gave you the precious gift of life. Don't you think that they deserve at least as much courtesy and assistance as you have given me?"

Now it was Emily's turn to be speechless. She'd never thought about it that way. All she heard was nag, nag, nag, but it seemed that now, Aunt Judy was humming a different kind of tune.

A few days after Emily returned home, Mrs. Greenberg girded herself for the outburst and told Emily to do the dishes.

Emily hesitated a moment and seemed to be listening to something far off. Mrs. Greenberg held her breath.

"Sure mom, right away! It's the least I could do." And she hopped off her chair and got right to work.

This time, Mrs. Greenberg sat down and wiped her brow, thoroughly confused. Whatever Aunt Judy had done, it was a great success.

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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Emily feel at first about doing things her mom ask her to do?
A. She felt like it was a bother.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was grateful for all her parents had done for her and was glad to help.

 

Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Emily learned?
A. She had viewed her parents as being a burden, making unreasonable demands on her. But after she came to realize how much she owed them, she became much more appreciative - and cooperative.

Q. What are some ways we can honor our parents?
A. We can speak to them respectfully - no matter what. We can do as they ask us, or discuss it calmly if we don't understand or agree. We shouldn't call them by their first name even when talking about them. We should treat them like we'd treat our hero.

Spiritual Exercise: Do or say at least one thing today to show a parent respect or appreciation.

 

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Do you think a person would have to show respect for a parent even if the parent hadn't taken care of him or given him much?
A. Although it would be harder to do, or feel inside, it would still be the right thing. God wants us to be grateful to our parents for the gift of life. Also, by honoring our parents we learn how to properly appreciate, honor and connect to God - our ultimate Parent.

Q. Besides parents, do you think there are any other categories of people to whom we should show particular honor or respect?
A. Special respect is due to the elderly (especially our grandparents) as well as to those who have taught us wisdom or are even especially wise themselves. Also we should treat older siblings with greater than average respect.

Spiritual Exercise: Do or say at least one thing today to show a parent respect or appreciation.

 

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Published: July 21, 2007

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