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October 14, 1988 - Image 50

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-10-14

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Ar t By Step han ie Sh ie l dhouse


Thy Son
And Thy

In suggesting an additional
commandment, the author
explains that children, like
parents, must be honored


Special to The Jewish News

50 FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1988


he Sages claimed that
we, root and branch,
were all present at the
foot of Sinai. We all "saw the
thunder" and "heard the
lightning," and we all ac-
cepted the Ten Words. The
revelation was public, offered
vertically to those physically
present and for the unborn
If I knew then what I now
know, I would have argued for
an additional commandment
to accompany the Fifth Com-
mandment. It would have
read, "Honor thy son and thy
daughter that thy days and
theirs be long upon the land
which the Lord thy God giv-
eth thee."
Honoring parents is not an
innate disposition of children.
Were it instinctual, no com-
mandment to honor parents
would be required. Children
need to be instructed in this
matter. They cannot be com-
manded to love parents, for
love cannot be legislated, not
even love of oneself. But laws,
conventions, etiquette, com-
mands may instruct children
behaviorally and attitudi-
As in our tradition, children

may be told not to sit in the
parental chairs around the
family table, or to contradict
parents in public. They may
be instructed to avoid quar-
rels, to speak softly, to sus-
tain parents in their waning
years with food and shelter —
those are proscriptive pre-
scriptions that can be followed.
Children may be taught that
with age omnipotent and
omniscient parents grow
weaker, their gait and speech
grow slower, their reten-
tiveness loses its firm hold.
But the honor given parents
is not contingent upon their
being wise or powerful or
good. lb be respected, parents
need not be lovable. As par-
ents grow older and more
forgetful, children may find
special meaning in the rab-
binic legend that the broken
tablets of the law were not
cast aside but were placed
carefully side by side with the
whole tablets of the law in the
Ark of Holiness. Age chips
away at the whole tablets of
memory and strength. But
loss of lucidity, proneness to
error, fragility of mind and
body are no excuses for loss
of honor. Brokenness belongs

in the precincts of the sacred.
There is equally no instinc-
tive disposition in parents to
respect their children. There-
fore the proposed imperative
for honoring the child. NOr
can parents be ordered to love
their children. For just as
parents are not all lovable,
not all children are lovable.
But neither need be respected
because of their lovability.
Like parents, children must
be honored. They must not be
shouted at, threatened, in-
timidated, punished at the
drop of a word, penalized
without reason or explana-
tion. Ages ago the Sages, on
Halachic moral grounds, pro-
hibited disciplining a child
with corporal punishment
after becoming a Bar or Bat
Mitzvah. For such punish-
ment would likely provoke the
grown child and may lead him
to strike at the parent, and
that would cause the child to
violate the Fifth Command-
ment. The celebration of the
Bar or Bat Mitzvah is of a
child who enters adult legal
responsibility. lb provoke him
or her would be to place a
"stumbling block before the

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