Archive for the 'Yitro' Category

Parents as Creators

February 8th, 2007 by Yaakov Ellis

כבד את-אביך, ואת-אמך–למען, יארכון ימיך, על האדמה, אשר-יהוה אלהיך נתן לך

Honor your father and your mother, in order to lengthen your days on this Land that the Lord your God has given to you (Shemot 20:11)

In this, the fifth of the “Ten Commandments”, we are commanded to honor our parents. Why is this commandment located precisely at this point?

Ramban explains: Up to this point, we had been commanded on things that are בין אדם למקום – relating solely to God (Belief in God, no idols, do not swear falsely, remember the Shabbat). After this, the commandments are all relating to issues that are solely בין אדם לחבירו – between man and his fellow (No murder, adultery, theft, false witnes or coveting). The commandment to honor one’s parents is an appropriate segue between these two sections of commandments because one’s relationship with one’s parents has both of these aspects within it.

One the one hand, parents are called a “partner with God” in creating their children. Ramban understands Devarim 5:15 (the second time that the Commandments are given, in which the words
כבד את-אביך ואת-אמך, כאשר צוך יהוה אלהיך
are added to this commandment) to mean that just as God has commanded you to observe his honor, so to your are commanded honor the onw who “joined me in your being formed”. On the other hand, this mitzvah is towards another person, and is carried out in this world. So it embodies both aspects: towards God and towards man, and is thus appropriately placed in between the first set of commandments and the last.