“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)
Judaism believes that the first of the two tablets that contain the commandments addresses man’s relationship with God. If so, it is interesting that the fifth commandment on this first tablet is the command to honor our parents. In other words, included among those instructions that speak of the reverence we are to show unto God, is the instruction to show honor unto our father and mother. Thus, the duty to one’s parents stands alongside the duties we are fulfill to God.
The responsibility to honor our parents should not be based solely on emotion and sentiment. but is considered to be part of our obligation toward God. For one to know that they are to do this, infers that one’s parents have met their obligation in teaching us of our responsibility toward God, represented by the first four commandments. So then, we could conclude that honoring one’s parents is to honor what they teach, assuming that they have taught what is right in the eyes of God. Frankly, Scripture does not suggest we are to obey a parent’s instruction if it would require us to break God’s commands. Still, we are to show proper respect to our parents, even when we do not agree with them.
Abraham is a man that the Creator of all things regarded as a friend and an obedient servant. Yet it is this same Abraham that was commanded to leave his country, his family and his father’s house (Genesis 12:1-2). Tradition teaches that his father, Terah, was an idol maker. So then, if Abraham had remained in Terah’s house, would he have been able to fulfill God’s plan for his life? The command to leave infers that Abraham couldn’t live in agreement with Terah and the lifestyle he presented. However, there is nothing to suggest that Abraham disrespected his father.
The point is this: it is fairly easy to honor parents when the parents are honorable. But what are we do when that is not the case? How do we honor those who have not taught us to follow after the Messiah, or even worse, have flaunted a wicked example before us? In some cases, fulfilling this command presents great challenges and hardship -– still the duty remains. It occurs to me then, that the best way to honor one’s parents is to be faithful and obedient to our Heavenly Father. If we honor Him with a life that is pleasing in His sight, we honor the ones who brought us into this world, whether they realize it or not.
Blessings and Shalom,