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Honoring Our Parents


Yitro (Exodus 18-20 )

by Nesanel Yoel Safran

Once there was a tiny, absolutely helpless baby who was all alone. He couldn't feed or clothe himself. He could hardly move. Left on his own, it seemed impossible for him to survive for even one day. Yet he did! How did he ever make it?

This baby was very fortunate. As out of nowhere, certain people came along and voluntarily agreed to take on the enormous expense and responsibility of providing for his every need. They took him into their home, bought him plenty of food and clothing, and even changed his dirty diapers. They spent many long and sleepless nights watching after him when he didn't feel well. They loved him and worked hard to teach him everything he needed to know to grow up and lead a good and successful life. As the child grew up and realized what these amazing people had done, he felt a tremendous sense of gratitude. He would always treat them with the utmost respect and do whatever he could to please them. He felt that it was the least that he could do.

In truth, each of us is that baby. And those special, wonderful people are our parents. In this week's Torah portion, God presents the Jewish people with the Torah, including the Ten Commandments. One of these ten things that God chose to especially emphasize was to remind us to appreciate and honor our parents. It's the least we can do.


In our story, a girl makes a tough choice in order to honor her parent.


It was a clear, cool winter afternoon as Cindy Houseman sat bored on her living room sofa. Usually she and her mom would spend these Sunday afternoons together, chatting and catching up on each other's week. But today her mom got called into the office with some emergency work and Cindy was left by herself with nothing to do.

The girl could tell that her mother felt bad leaving. But she also knew that her mom needed this job to help support them, and that she didn't have a choice. "I'm sorry, dear. I'll be back as soon as I can," her mom said with a sigh as she went out the door.

"Mom always tries so hard..." thought Cindy. Suddenly, the girl got an idea. She was going to make her mom a special supper to greet her when she returned! After all, she thought, my mom must have made me about a million suppers over the year, why not return the favor for once!

Enthused, Cindy scanned the refrigerator and pantry shelves. Finally she settled on a menu: spaghetti and meat sauce with salad. She knew it was one of her mom's favorites. She had just assembled all of the ingredients on the kitchen counter when the phone rang. It was her friend Laura. She and another girl had managed to get their hands on three tickets to the popular, sold-out ice show that was in town. The show was going to start in a half an hour, and they wanted her to join them!

"We'll pick you up in ten minutes."

Cindy couldn't believe it. She had been dreaming of seeing the ice show, and now it was going to happen. She was about to say "yes" when she noticed the food on the counter in front of her. She thought of how tired her mom would be when she got home, and how much nicer it would be for her to find a nice hot meal on the table instead of an 'I'll see you later, Mom' note on the door. How many times had her mom given up going out in order to take care of her? But what about the ice show?

"Well, what do you say?" asked Laura, impatiently.

Cindy took a deep breath and explained to her friends that she was sorry but was in the middle of a very important project.

The girl started cooking and felt really good doing it. Just when she finished everything, Cindy heard the front door open as her mom came home. Although she looked really tired, her face lit up when she saw Cindy was still home. "Hi dear, I'm sorry it took so long. I tried to rush home. You must be starving, poor thing. I'll just whip up some..."

Cindy flashed a smile which grew bigger and bigger. She motioned to her mom to follow her into the kitchen where the table was set with two beautiful place settings, and a tempting meal sat waiting on the warming tray. "Oh, Cindy!" exclaimed her mother. "Thank you so much. You just made my day."

Mother and daughter sat down and had wonderful leisurely meal together. Cindy felt great and sure that she had made the right choice. "There will be other ice shows" she thought, "But I only have one mother."


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Cindy feel when her friends invited her out?
A. She felt torn. While she really wanted to go, she also wanted to honor her mom with a special surprise.

Q. How did she feel about her decision after her mother came home?
A. She was really happy that she had decided to do something nice for her mom, who had done so much for her.

Ages 6-9

Q. Do you think a person is still required to honor his parents after he himself grows up and is on his own? Why or why not?
A. The concept of honoring ones parents really has nothing to do with age, or being under parents' supervision. It is a lifetime expression of gratitude and respect toward the people who gave us our lives, and so much more. While the ways in which a person will express this honor will change according to his age, the basic value remains the same.

Q. What are some practical ways that a person can honor his parent?
A. Two of the most important ways are through doing things for them that we know they like, and by treating them with extra respect. For example, like the girl in the story, we can make our parent their favorite foods, or we can make or buy them meaningful gifts when we have the chance. We should always listen to our parents and speak to them courteously, not call them by their first names. Even if we may disagree with our parents, we should express our feelings respectfully. Imagine if your greatest hero had suddenly come to visit you, how would you treat him? Treat your parent that way.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Does honoring your parents require compromising one's independence?
A. Real independence is an ability to make mature decisions and act upon them. A person who develops a mature attitude toward his parents will realize that they are people who brought him into the world and who do their best, according to the level of their abilities to provide for his various needs. For this alone they deserve our recognition and respect. Far from being a sacrifice of our independence, the decision to rightfully honor one's parents is an act of maturity and self-confidence.

Q. Do you think that all the hard work parents have to put in to raise their children makes it harder or easier for them to feel love for their kids?
A. On the surface one might think that it would be harder. After all, parents do have to give up a lot of their own personal comfort for the sake of their kids. But in reality it makes it easier. A surprising aspect of human nature is that when we give to someone we come to feel a greater closeness and love for that person. Since in so many ways a parent relates to a child through giving, it follows that strong feelings of love will develop.


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