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Honour your father and your mother

By Zahavit Shalev

The teenage brain is programmed to think adults are fools. I have very vivid recall of thinking this about my parents. Soon after my mother died, a memory floated to the surface of the time when, as a young adult, I shouted at her, accusing her of not understanding me. My mother – to my surprise – readily agreed. True, she said, she loved me very much but she did not understand me. However, she continued, my feelings were real and I deserved to be understood. (She recommended therapy.)

Now, when my own children tell me I am a fool, I feel equanimity, almost gratitude. I think, wryly: oh well, they are just doing their job. Their disrespect is real, but it is also evidence of their developing minds. Their disdain is a completely understandable ambivalence about their dependence on me and my power over them. (And also, sometimes I am a fool.)

Our rabbis regarded the fifth commandment as the pivot between the mitzvot on each tablet – one side describing mitzvot between us and God, and the other between us and our fellow humans. But I now see that honouring parents is also the commandment that marks the pivot between generations.

[This is part of the publication “The Ten (Masorti) Commandments.” The full booklet can be found here.]

Posted on 5 June 2019