THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT: The difference between honoring and respecting parents

0
278
כבד את אביך ואת אמך
איש אמו ואביו תיראו
In the Tora there are two mitsvot that govern the parents / children relationship. The first is kabbed et abikha ve-et imekha“Honor your father and your mother.” This is the fifth of the Ten Commandments.

And there is a second mitsva in the book of Vayiqra -Leviticus- 19: 3, which says ish immo veabiv tira’u , “One must respect his mother and his father.” These two mitsvot are different, and in fact they complement each other, as we will explain below.

We will begin by the second mitsva: Respecting our parents. The language used by the Tora, which we translated as respect, istira’u, which literally means “fear.” But this Mitsva is not indicating us to be afraid of our parents, but to treat and address them with “reverential fear”, that is, respect.
Respecting our parents includes everything that we should NOT do to our parents.
Some examples:
I can not call my parents by their first name.
I can not contradict or disobey my parents.
A son or daughter should not sit in a place that is designated for her father or his mother. For example, I cannot sit in my mother’s seat at the table ,or in my father’s special chair at home, or on the seat of my father in the synagogue, etc.

Respect for our parents is a way to establish clear lines and limits: “I am the father and you are the son: we are not equal.”. This distance is absolutely necessary for the children, not for the ego of the parents. These principles set boundaries and define authority, without which a child can not be well educated. In a practical sense, the mitsva to “respect” our parents applies mainly when we are children or young adults, and we depend on our parents. A Jewish child is educated to act with discipline and to accept the authority of parents. Which eventually will train him or her to accept a higher authority: the Divine authority.

The first mitsva, “Honoring our parents” is very different. It is not about what we are NOT allowed to do to our parents, but rather, what we should do for our parents. Honoring our parents means “caring” and “taking care of” our parents. As we already explained, this is the fifth of the Ten Commandments.
Our sages explained that honoring parents includes, for instance, our obligation to serve our parents, accompany them, take them and bring them, and if necessary, feed them and clothe them. This mitsva emphasizes the duty of gratitude and appreciation to those who fed us, clothed us and looked after us when we were kids.
As the reader will appreciate, while respecting parents applies mainly when we, the children, we depend on our parents, honoring/taking care of our parents mainly applies when our parents are older, and they depend on us, the children.