Speaking With Parents
Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18 )
A parent is more than just another person and should be treated with special respect. In our Torah portion, the disrespectful way Laban treats his father (Gen. 24:50, Rashi) reveals his poor character. We can show our good character by speaking to and treating our parents respectfully.
In our story, a kid realizes the way to speak to a parent isn't always so apparent.
"Isn't that new music store in the mall just soooo cool?" Liz cooed into her cell phone, as she lay sprawled out on her cozy bedroom pile carpet and flipped through a fashion magazine.
"You betcha!" answered her friend-and-all-time-favorite-phone-pal, Jan. "I was there yesterday and they promised me that by Sunday the newest album from..."
"Hold on a second, Jan, okay?" Liz cut her off.
Jan distractedly dangled the phone up to her ear to listen for when Liz would come back on the line.
"Who said you're allowed to come into my room!" Jan could hear Liz say shrilly in the background. "What, you want to put my laundry away? Okay if you absolutely have to ... but fast!"
A moment later Jan heard her friend's bedroom door click closed.
"Sorry, Jan," Liz giggled, back on the line. "So what were we talkin' about anyway? Oh, I meant to tell you, I just saw that there's a special half price sale coming up at ... ugh, I cannot believe this," she groaned. "Hold on again."
"Will you stop bothering me!"
This time Jan heard Liz shouting in the background.
"No, I do not want my bed made! Now get OUT!"
"Okay, we won't have any more interruptions now," Liz said into the phone as she locked her door so that her mother wouldn't come in again. "Sorry about that."
"I couldn't help overhearing," Jan said, "You were really hard on her, huh?" Jan said into the phone.
"Well, she deserved it!" Liz laughed.
"I can relate," Jan said. "Sometimes I get really annoyed by our hired cleaning help, too. You know what I mean?"
Cleaning help? Liz thought, confused, as Jan went on.
"Of course, I could never get away to speaking to our housecleaner like you just did to yours. My mom always tells me we have to treat everyone respectfully - and not only 'important' people like her or my dad..."
Important people? Liz pondered her friend's words, Yes, my mom is important and really nice too ... but does that mean I have to speak to her differently?...
"I guess your mom's not home just now," Jan continued, "so you figured she wouldn't get upset by hearing you speak that way to the maid, huh?"
That would have been bad enough! Liz gulped.
Jan expected her normally chatty friend to jump right back into the conversation, but the phone was as silent as a library full of napping giraffes.
"Hey Liz, I'm tired of having a monologue. You still there or what?" Jan laughed into the silent phone line.
"Um ... yeah, I'm here," Liz said, "But listen ... I've really got to go. I just discovered another big mess that needs to get cleaned up right away."
Yeah, Liz thought to herself, the mess-up I made by speaking to my mom so disrespectfully - and the big 'clean up' I'm about to do right now by apologizing.
Q. How did Liz feel at first about the way she spoke to her mother?
A. She felt it was okay.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She realized it wasn't respectful to speak to her like that.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Liz learned that day?
A. She hadn't been aware that she was being so disrespectful to her mother - someone she should be especially respectful to - but when her friend thought that she had been mouthing off to a housecleaner and not to her mother - Liz realized she had been way out of line.
Q. Is being disrespectful to a housecleaner, or someone like that, any more permissible?
A. Certainly we should be respectful to everyone, and their so-called status, or lack of it should have nothing to do with it. Still. We should go even further when it comes to our parents, to speak and behave with exceptional respect.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why should we act respectfully toward a parent?
A. Firstly, we owe our parents a tremendous debt of gratitude for giving us our lives and every bit of effort they put in to raise us. (It's one of the Ten Commandments!) Besides this, it refines our character, by training ourselves to act respectfully and we'll eventually discover that the more we treat others (especially our parents) with respect, the more we will come to respect ourselves.
Q. How are some ways to demonstrate that respect?
A. Certainly in the way we speak. Calling parent by their first name, even if no offense is meant or taken, is less than fully respectful. In addition, we can go out of our way to try to help them and do things we know will make them pleased.