Parashat Yitro

Parents Make It To The Top Ten

The placement of the commandment to honor our parents in the midst of the Ten Commandments highlights the complex ways in which parents serve as our bridge between God and the world.

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Jewish Identification Comes From Parents

Even in those families where the child's Jewish commitment is more consuming or elaborate than that of the parents, the core of the child's identification as a Jew is still a product of who the parents are and of the nature of their family and friends.

If parents are so central, then why doesn't the Torah or the Talmud mandate the love of parents? The lack of such an imperative is the result of a recognition that there is no relationship as complex, multi-layered and deep as that between a parent and child. Experiences of total dependency, of complete rebellion, of increasing similarity are all commonplace between the generations. Spouses can divorce, and friends can separate, but a parent is forever.

Given this overwhelming variety of feelings--due to the overwhelming variety of relationships--that each individual has with each parent, it would be impossible to reduce that bundle of feelings to any one emotion. The entire range of human passions applies between parents and child. But only a narrow range of behavior is healthy and appropriate.

For all these reasons, then, Jewish tradition places a great emphasis on kibbud (honor) and yirah (reverence) towards parents. As the people to whom we owe life itself, as the people who provided years of care, and as transmitters and links to Judaism and the Jewish past, our parents merit our honor and respect.

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.