Weekly Torah Commentary – Parsha Yitro January 21, 2011

In this week’s portion our attention is on the greatest supernatural event of all history – the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.   In our discussion, we will focus on just two of the Ten Commandments.

The fifth commandment is “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that Hashem your God gives you.” Many of learned this very early in our childhood and one might be tempted to say, ‘What else is there to discuss about this?’  We do well to review even those principles we think we know so well because we are prone to forget, are we not?

This is the first of the commandments that contains within it a very powerful promise of blessing from God.  Right in the text of the instruction He tells us that giving honor and respect to our parents will have the direct effect of lengthening our lives — no small blessing!  When we honor our parents, God regards it as honoring Him.  It is a cornerstone of faith in the entire Torah for our heritage as Jews derives from a chain of generation to generation from Avraham to Sinai to the very present day.  The Torah is preserved as parents teach children who then become parents and teach their children.

The term ‘honor’ includes words and actions towards our parents that improve their lives, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually — or a combination of all three.  We refrain from doing anything that will cause them to be embarrassed, disgraced or degraded; we serve them unselfishly, not for the sake of any inheritance, but because it honors Hashem.  And we are careful not to offend them.  Why such care?  Because it takes three to create a child – a man, a woman and God.  Therefore our reverence to our parents is deeply connected to our reverence for God.  To dishonor them is to dishonor the Almighty.

The next commandment reads simply: “You shall not kill.” Some commentators have said that the prohibition against taking a life seems so obvious that it hardly needs to be listed.  However, we have learned that the words of the Ten Commandments go much deeper than the obvious.

There are many things which spiritually are considered tantamount to murder and therefore, are violations of this commandment.  Among them are:

1) causing someone significant embarrassment — as through gossip and slander, ‘murdering’ one’s reputation

2) failing to provide for the poor when one is able to do so

3) causing someone to lose his livelihood

4) refusing to give asked-for advice when failing to do so will harm or endanger the other person

When pondered in light of these examples (and there are more), who among us is not guilty of violating the sixth commandment?

In Tune With Torah this week means asking oneself:

How can I improve my giving of honor to my parents? (This applies even if they are deceased – think about it)

Have I truly repented for any negative words I have spoken about others, for harming someone on the job or done anything else which falls

under the heading of “murder?

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