Shabbat-Table Talks: Ahare Mot-Qedoshim
By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <firstname.lastname@example.org>
[This week’s Table Talks is dedicated in memory of Miriam bat Rena, by
her son David Abadi.]
Showing respect to Parents and the
Elderly. A basic value in Judaism is that of relating with respect to our
parents and to the elderly. This value is so important that it is mentioned in
the Ten Commandments. It is also repeated in the second perasha that we read
this week, Qedoshim. While this is a very well known value, it is worthwhile to
explore some aspects of this value.
spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to the entire community of the Children of Israel,
and say to them: Holy are you to be, for holy am I, Hashem your God.
mother and his father you are to hold in awe, and my Sabbaths you are to keep: I
am Hashem your God.
front of the aged, you are to rise, you are to honor the face of the elderly,
thus holding your God in awe, I am Hashem.
The holiness that God commands includes many different behaviors, including the
way we relate to others and to God. The words “I am Hashem” repeat
throughout this section, reminding us of the commander of these laws. The first
idea mentioned is to revere your parents. Holiness begins with having the proper
reverence and respect for your parents. This verse is coupled with idea of
keeping the Shabbat. One might see these two ideas as exemplifying proper
behavior to human beings along with proper behavior towards Hashem’s
commandments. Later in the chapter, Hashem commands us to rise and show honor to
the aged. This is also an act of holiness.
Where else does the idea of respecting
parents occur? (In the Asseret Hadiberot.) Can you quote the Torah’s words?
(“kabed et abikha ve`et immekha”) (The idea here is to give your children a
chance to show off their knowledge. If you can do that with a more challenging
question that is even better.)
do you think that Hashem began to talk about holiness by about showing respect
to parents? (The way we treat our parents will carry over into the way we treat
God. Like God, our parents have done so much good for us that we take for
granted. They provided for us and nurtured us for many years before we could
even thank them. Recognizing this is the first step to recognizing the goodness
of God, which we might take for granted as well. Recognizing God’s goodness
and beneficence to us creates the sense of gratitude and of desiring to emulate
God in His holiness.)
is Shabbat mentioned in the same verse as revering parents?
addition to the idea mentioned above one might discuss an idea mentioned in the
Sifra quoted by Rashi—
Torah placed Shabbat next to revering parents in order to teach us that even
though I have warned you about revering your parents, if your parent should tell
you to violate the Shabbat, don’t listen to him. This applies to other
commandments as well. I AM HASHEM YOUR GOD—you and your parent are obligated
to revere Me, therefore do not obey him if he tells you to go against my word.
reverence include obedience? (From the above Midrash, one might say that unless
the parent is asking his child to violate the Torah, reverence includes
obedience. Yet, according to the Talmud reverence and respect do not include
obedience. The Talmud defines these two ideas in very practical terms:
is reverence? Do not stand in his place, do not sit in his place, do not openly
contradict him, do not prove him wrong.
him to eat and drink, dress, cover and help him get in and out. (Qiddushin 31b)
idea of obedience is not included here. The reverence and respect demanded by
the Talmud’s understanding of these verses is not an emotion, but certain
actions that show respect and reverence. One must show respect and reverence for
parents, even if one does not feel respect and reverence for them.
is no limit to how much one must do to show respect for parents. The Talmud
relates several stories about people (including non-Jews) who excelled in
respecting their parents. Here is one of them:
the Tanna, R. Tarfon, was very wealthy and had many servants, there was one
thing that he insisted upon doing himself, and that was caring for his elderly
mother. R. Tarfon’s mother lived with R. Tarfon. She had her own room with a
high bed. When it became difficult for her to climb in and out of bed, R. Tarfon
would bend low so that she could use his back as a footstool.
spring Shabbat morning, R. Tarfon’s mother went for a walk. As she was walking
the strap of her sandal ripped. Quickly, R. Tarfon was by her side. He placed
his hand underneath her foot so that she would be able to walk without getting
her foot cold from the damp, early spring ground.
R. Tarfon recounted these events to his colleagues in the bet midrash, they
commented, “you still have not reached half of the reverence to parents
required by the Torah.
from Tales of Tzaddikim, based on Qidushin 31b)
course, the best way to teach this value is by modeling it by the way we treat
our parents and elderly acquaintances. Our children pay very careful attention
and absorb our attitudes without us noticing. Here is a story about one smart
child and the way he taught his father a lesson about honoring parents.
there was a man who had an elderly father, whom he did not respect. He would let
his father sleep in the woodshed, clothe him in rags and feed him stale bread.
same man had a young son who was very smart. When he grew, he saw his elderly
grandfather living in the woodshed dressed in rags. The son did not want to
treat his father with disrespect and tell him, “This is no way to treat your
father.” What did he do? He used his head. One day, making believe he was
ignorant, he asked his father, “Who is that man living in the woodshed dressed
in rags?” His father answered, “that is my father, your grandfather.” The
boy did not respond.
next day, the boy went around the house collecting all the old rags that he
could find, and he put them together with many fine and expensive articles. He
locked the closet door and took the key. When his father heard what the boy had
done, he was furious. “What did you do,” he shouted, “why did you put all
those old rags with all our fine items?” “ All that I did was for your
honor, father,” said the boy. When
you get older and when you live in the woodshed, I do not want you to have to go
searching for rags. Now you will know where to find them.”
father understood his son’s lesson and immediately brought his old father from
the woodshed, dressed him in fine clothing and announced: My old father will
always be dressed in the finest clothing and fed well. He will always sit at the
head of the table and live in the best room in my home.” And that is what
happened. (From “Folktales of Israel’s Communities” p. 28. This folktale
is from Syria.)
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