26th of Tishri, 5771
HONORING ONE’S PARENTS:The difference between ‘respect’ and ‘honor’.
Two Mitzvot regulate children/parents relationship. The first one is kabbed et abikha ve-et imekha “Honor your father and your mother”.
This important Mitzva is the fifth of the Ten Commandments. There is a second Mitzva (vaikra-Leviticus- 19, 3) ish immo veabiv tira’u “A man should fear/respect his mother and his father”. These two Mitzvot are different from each other and actually supplement each other.
‘Honoring‘ includes all what we must do for our parents: watch them, and if necessary feed them and help them to get dress; take them out; drive them to the doctor, etc. In other words: take good care of them. ‘Honoring’ is a function of ‘love’.
‘Respect’, on the other side, is about what we are not allowed to do to our parents: we can’t call our parents by their name, we can’t sit in their seat; we can’t contradict them, etc. ‘Respecting’ our parents is a recognition of their ‘authority’.In a practical sense, the Mitzva of ‘respect’ applies mainly when we are young and we depend on our parents. A Jewish child observes a system of discipline and behavior which trains him to accept a higher authority.
The second Mitzva applies mainlywhen our parents are older, and (or when) they depend on us. We have a direct obligation to take good care of them. This Mitzva emphasizes the duty of gratitude and payback for those who fed us, dressed us, and took care of us when we were children.
Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC 130 Steamboat Rd. Great Neck NY 11024