Thanking Our Parents
Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )
While we should treat everyone with respect, when it comes to our parents, the people who gave us our very lives, we have to go out of our way and treat them extra respectfully. The Torah portion this week tells us how important it is to treat our parents right.
In our story, a roll of the dice gets a kid to start looking at his parents with a different eye.
"You just landed on my hotel, buddy. Fork over 500 bucks!" Hal grinned while his friend, Steve, reluctantly counted out the Monopoly money and flipped it onto his friend's ever-growing pile.
"I don't get it," said Steve, "if you are over my house, why do I have to keep paying you rent?" The boys laughed. "Hey, where are those drinks already?" yelled Steve into the kitchen. He turned to his friend, "Service is really slow around here. You know I'd fire the waitress, but she owns the place, hah, hah!"
Hal squirmed uncomfortably. He had been having a great time playing at Steve's house, but really didn't feel comfortable about the disrespectful way his friend spoke to, and about, his parents. It just didn't seem right. He wanted to say something to him about it, but just didn't know how.
Just then Steve's mom walked in, smiling, with two tall icy Cokes. "Wow, thanks a lot Mrs. Hacker." Said Hal, while Steve just grabbed his drink without even looking while muttering something it being 'about time' under his breath.
They played on. Steve rolled the dice and moved his game piece.
Take a card from the 'Chance' pile.
He lifted up the card, and broke into an ear-to-ear grin. "'Your rich uncle leaves you an inheritance; take all the money from the pot!' That's it, I'm on the come-back trail!"
As he grabbed the money, Hal got an idea. "Lucky roll buddy. You mind if I ask you a question?"
"Ask away," he said, sipping his drink.
"How would you feel if some rich billionaire really did give you a lot of money like that?"
"Are you kidding? He'd be my best friend in the world!"
Hal went on. "And what if, besides all that, he also took care of all your needs for years? How would you treat such a person?"
"What is there to talk about? I'd treat him like a king, who wouldn't?"
Hal nodded. "And what would you say about someone who got such a deal, and still bad-mouthed the one who gave it to him?"
"I'd say he was the most ungrateful jerk in the world!"
Hal took a deep breath. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure. What are you driving at anyway?"
"I'm saying that we all do have such people in our lives - our parents. They take care of us, and give us what we need..."
Steve started turning red. "Hey, cut it out. Besides, my old folks never gave me a billion dollars."
"They gave you your life, which is worth more than a billion dollars. And if you don't think so, ask anyone if he'll trade. I'm not trying to put you down, buddy; I'm just saying you're not acting the way you yourself just said a person should."
Steve was quiet. There was some truth in what Hal was saying. He even saw how hard his parents worked to take care of his baby sister, getting up at night, changing diapers. He realized that they had probably done the same for him when he was a baby too - not to mention everything since...
"How's the game going, boys? Here's something to snack on while you play." Mrs. Hacker smiled as she put a big bowl of chips on the table next to them, and turned to walk out.
"Um, mom," said Steve, hesitantly.
The woman turned around. "What's the matter, did I forget something?"
"Um, no Mom ... I did. Hal reminded me that I forgot to say thank you for the drinks. And also thank you for the chips - and for everything."
Steve's mom broke into a big smile. "You are quite welcome! And you," she said looking at Hal, "are welcome to come back here anytime!"
The guys went on with the game, and no matter who was going to win, Hal felt great that he had taken the 'chance' and helped his friend come out a winner in the game of life.
Q. How did Steve feel about his parents at first?
A. He felt like he didn't have to thank them or treat them with respect.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. His friend Hal got him to think about how much his parents have done for him, and this made him feel grateful to his parents and made him treat them more respectfully.
Q. What did Steve discover that afternoon?
A. Up until then, he had sort of taken his parents for granted, and felt like there was nothing wrong with even putting them down when he felt like it. But his friend, Hal, helped him realize that his parents, who gave him his life, and have taken care of his needs for many years, had given him something more valuable than a billion dollars. He realized that just like he would certainly appreciate and treat respectfully someone who gave him a billion dollars, it was only right for him to treat his parents at least as well.
Q. What do you think is the right way for someone to treat his parents?
A. Let's try to think of who we consider to be the most important person in the world. Now imagine that he or she has come to visit us. How would we act? How would we treat them? This is a good beginning of how we should treat our parents.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How does the way we treat our parents reflect on our relationship with God?
A. In many ways, God is the 'ultimate parent' to us all. He gives us our lives, and provides us with everything we need. One reason God gave us our 'earthly' parents, and asks us to respect and appreciate them, is in order to train us to properly relate to Him, our ultimate Parent. Therefore, the better we treat our parents, the closer we grow to God, our 'ultimate parent', and vice versa.
Q. Is it enough to love our parents, regardless of how we speak and act toward them, etc.?
A. It is a great thing to love our parents. However the Torah asks us to translate our love into tangible action, which, in this case, is treating our parents with noticeable respect. In fact, even if someone didn't feel love for his parents, the right thing to do would be to try to act with respect and appreciation, all the same.