GOOD MORNING! Rabbi Joey Grunfeld once related to me a story of the time he was asked to give a guest sermon in a synagogue in South Africa. He asked the rabbi if there was any particularly sensitive topic that he should avoid. The rabbi replied, "No, speak about whatever you like. My congregation are all yenemites." Rabbi Grunfeld was totally puzzled by the rabbi's answer. He thought the rabbi said "Yemenites", but that didn't make sense. In any event, he gave a rousing sermon.
After the services, he and the rabbi were standing at the door of the synagogue greeting the parishioners as they left. One member told Rabbi Grunfeld, "That was a fantastic sermon. It was just what the guy sitting next to me needed to hear!" The synagogue's rabbi turned to Rabbi Grunfeld and said, "See, they are all yenemites. Everything they hear is for yenem, (the Yiddish word for) 'the other guy.' "
In some respects, we are all yenemites. For instance, this week's Question & Answer on honoring one's parents, I am sure will be met with, "Thank God, this is just what I needed to give to my kids to read!" No! This is meant for you. This is just what your parents are excited about for you to read!
Q & A: WHAT IS THE MITZVAH OF HONORING ONE'S
PARENTS AND HOW IS IT FULFILLED?
Included in the Ten Commandments, is the mitzvah (commandment) to honor your father and mother. The Torah writes: "Honor your father and your mother so that your days may be lengthened upon the Land which the Lord your God gives to you" (Exodus 20:12). Later in Deuteronomy, in the restating of the Ten Commandments, the verse reads: "Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God has commanded you in order that your days may be lengthened and that it should be good for you upon the Land which the Lord your God gives to you" (Deuteronomy 5:16).
Another relevant verse from Leviticus: "Every man shall revere his mother and his father and you shall observe My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:3). (It is interesting to note that the Torah commands us to observe the Sabbath in the same sentence as the commandment to honor one's father and mother. This is to clarify that the same Source which commands you to honor your father and mother commands you NOT to listen to them if they tell you to violate the Shabbat or any other mitzvah.)
We see from these verses that there are two mitzvot (commandments): 1) To honor your parents and 2) To revere your parents. Love motivates one to do positive things; fear keeps one from transgressing the negative.
What difference does it make if a child learns this principle as a commandment from God or he picks up his attitude towards parents from his society?
A rabbi was sitting next to an atheist on an airplane. Every few minutes one of the rabbi's children or grandchildren would inquire if they could bring him something to eat or drink or if there was anything they could do for him. The atheist commented, "It's wonderful the respect your children and grandchildren show you; mine don't show me that respect." The rabbi responded, "Think about it. To my children and to my grandchildren, I am one step closer in a chain of tradition to the time when God spoke to the whole Jewish people on Mt. Sinai. To your children and grandchildren -- unfortunately, you are considered to be one step closer to being an ape."
Are children more inclined to respect their parents if they think they are one step closer to being an ape or if they believe that their parents are one step closer to being created by the Almighty who heard God speak?
From the Torah perspective, a parent is a paradigm for relating to God. A parent loves his child unconditionally, sets boundaries, reproves, feeds his child though the child did wrong, wants only the best for his child. A parent is not always understood or appreciated and is sometimes suspect of not having the child's best interest at heart. (Mark Twain once commented, "When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned.") Hopefully, the children eventually appreciate their parent's motivation.
If one does not show gratitude and respect to his parents who gave him life, how is he expected to show gratitude and respect for God who not only is a Partner in giving him life, but Who has given him the whole world? The Torah helps us train our children in how to relate to their parents and therefore how to relate to the Almighty.
The Torah teaches us our obligations to our parents and our elders. It teaches us that we must stand up for our parents, a person with Torah knowledge or a person over 70 (if one has lived 70 years then he or she has wisdom about life -- just through living). Our society? Note a recently seen bumper sticker: "Be good to your children. They choose your nursing home."
How does one engender love and appreciation of children for parents? Where there is peace in the home, no arguing amongst the parents in front of the children, unconditional love, respect for each other, boundaries and consistency ... and values, there is a good chance that our children will have such warm feelings for us.
The Almighty has implanted in parents an innate love for their children, but this does not lessen the Torah obligation to honor and respect one's parents. We must be grateful for the numerous acts of kindness that our parents have bestowed upon us. We have no right to minimize their efforts on our behalf by questioning their motives.
Here are some basic halachot, (Jewish laws) instructing us how to respect our parents:
- A child should consider his parents distinguished, even if others do not consider them so.
- We must always speak to our parents with a soft and pleasant tone.
- A child must not contradict his parents. (Yorah Daiah 240:1 -- The Code of Jewish Law)
- A child must not call his parent by name. (Yorah Daiah, 240:1)
- A child must not sit in a place where his parent usually sits.
- A child should fulfill his parent's requests with a pleasant facial expression.
- You are obligated to stand up before your father and your mother when they enter the room (YD 240:7)
- A child has no right to humiliate or embarrass his parents, regardless of what they do to him.
- If a parent tells a child to violate either a Torah law or rabbinical law, he is forbidden to comply.
- A child must be careful not to awaken his parents.
Parents should make sure that their young children show respect towards them and others. If a young child forms the habit of being disrespectful to his parents or others, he will also lack respect when he grows up. (This is why I never let my children call adults by their first names even if my friends introduce themselves to my kids using just their first name.) The reward for honoring parents is long life. Therefore, if a parent sincerely loves his children, he should make sure that they fulfill this commandment!
Torah Portion of the Week
The Torah continues this week with the command to make for use in the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary -- oil for the Menorah and clothes for the Cohanim, the Priests. It then gives instruction for the consecration of the Cohanim and the Outer Altar. The portion concludes with instructions for constructing the Incense Altar.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "You shall make the Choshen Mishpat ("the Breastplate of Judgement" -- one of the eight garments of the High Priest, the Cohen Gadol) (Exodus 28:15). Each of the garments had a specific spirtitual impact and purpose. What do we learn from the Choshen Mishpat?
Rashi, the essential commentary on the Torah, tells us that the Choshen Mishpat "substantiates its statements and its promises come true." When a question was asked to the High Priest, the letters of the breastplate would light up in a sequence spelling out the answer.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz clarifies that Rashi is coming to teach you to be very clear exactly what you are and are not promising. If you do not clarify and qualify when you make your promise, it is not truth. To promise "the world" but intend to offer limited help shows a lack of integrity. It creates greater problems later on. Being specific in promises is especially important in raising children; it teaches them whether or not they can trust their parents!
CANDLE LIGHTING - February 22
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
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is your presence
Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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