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LONG LIFE

by Ariel Sloan    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

"Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you" (Exodus 20:12).

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"Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you" (Exodus 20:12).

Honoring one's parents is the fifth of the Ten Command-ments recounted in this week's Torah portion. Although the whole commandment is taught in only one sentence, two questions arise. First, why is this commandment the fifth one? Our rabbis teach that the first five commandments deal with the relationship between Man and G-d, while the last five deal with people's interactions with those around them. Honoring one's parents seems to be a commandment teaching one how to relate to other people. If so, why doesn't it appear amongst the last five commandments? Second, from amongst all of the Ten Commandments, why does the Torah record a specific reward (that of long life) for this mitzvah to honor one's parents?

To answer these questions, we must analyze the mitzvah of honoring one's parents a little more carefully. Thinking about it, we could come up with many reasons for doing the mitzvah. We might want to show how grateful we are to our parents by honoring them; perhaps we feel indebted to our parents for raising us; we know that we would like our own children to honor us. All of these reasons have to do with an outside party. However, like many commandments, honoring your parents isn't solely for their benefit. Rather, it is to help the one performing the mitzvah to grow in his relationship with Hashem.

When you honor your parents, you are remembering what type of relationship you have with Hashem. In fact, the Talmud (Tractate Kiddushin 30b) says that there are three partners in the creation of a new life - the father, the mother, and Hashem. Aside from physically creating you, your parents and Hashem share another thing in common: They know you very well. Therefore, when your parents tell you something, they are often drawing on their life experiences (they are older than you) and on their intimate knowledge of your situation.

Furthermore, there is a concept that children go through many of the same life challenges as do their parents. As a result, parents may be equipped to help their children in situations that they themselves went through. Similarly, Hashem draws from His infinite wisdom and intimately relates it to us when we study His Torah. Hashem communicates with us when we study the Torah because each and every one of us gleans something different from it, depending on our circumstances or feelings at the time. There is something in the Torah for every person at every time in his life.

This also answers our second question. By understanding that G-d and our parents know us well and can give us personal guidance, we will definitely lengthen our days. By knowing what to do, we won't waste our time in false pursuits. In this way, Hashem and our parents help us progress on our personal path of life.

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Ariel Sloan, a native Atlantan, is a junior at Yeshiva University in New York.

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