Published July-08-05
Ask Rabbi Dan
by Rabbi Dan S. Wiko PhD
  Issue: 6.07
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Dear Rabbi,

Why are we commanded to love our parents? What if they are mean or evil people?

The translation of the Fifth Commandment; Kabet es Avicha V'es Eemecha, is not to "love" your parents but, rather, to "honor" them...there is a significant difference.

Love or "Ahavas" is commanded only in terms of "your" response to G-D Himself. In the Shema, it is written "You shall love the Lord; your G-D, with all your heart, all of your soul and all of your might"...Having achieved love on those three levels, you come close to being "one with G-D" or, in simpler explanation, you begin to live life in a G-dly fashion.

Honor or "Kabet" is something entirely different from love itself yet still a factor in loving. How does one honor parents? We honor our parents and our ancestors by living a life in which we do not bring shame to our family. Even if our family tree leaves much to be desired, we are to do everything so that the family name is enhanced in the community.

We honor by doing good deeds and acts of random kindness..."Gemilut Chesed".
We, also, honor by loving our neighbor as we do ourself..."Ahavas Olum..."

In my view, once a person adheres to the First Commandment..."I am the Lord; your G-D..........." and the Fifth Commandment..." that you may have a long life", the other eight are adhered to without even a modicum of thought or effort. It just stands to reason, then, that we do not murder, steal, covet, lie, etc., and, of course, look forward to the Sabbath for weekly physical rest and spiritual renewal.

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