The commandment to “honour your
father and your mother” is part of
the first of the two tablets in the Ten
Commandments originally given by
God to Moses at Mount Sinai. The precepts
on the first tablet deal with typically
religious matters of the man and
God relationship, while the commandments
on the second tablet deal with
the matters related to intra-human relationships.
The child-parent relationship is analogous
to, and intricately bound up in, the
man-God relationship. This is so because
in bringing a child into this world
the parents are in a partnership with
God where the material substance is
derived from the parents, while God
grants spirit and soul, the vital form of
This commandment appears in the
middle of the Ten Commandments: it
mediates between the first four and the
latter five precepts because it is related
to both groups. It is as much a religious
principle as it is a social one.
According to Dennis Prager, “One of
the Torah’s greatest teachings is that
our feelings are far less important than
our behaviour. More than loving parents,
the Jews believe it is honour and
reverence displayed towards them
which is the epitome of Hebrew teaching
about parents-children relationship.
Love is the natural result when these
two are in place. ‘Honour’ and ‘fear’
[Exodus 20:21, Leviticus 19:3] are the
two commands that Jews seriously
consider and strictly adhere to.
The Hebrew word for honour is kevod,
meaning heavy. In other words,
‘honour’ means treating one’s parents
with the gravity that their position demands.
The opposite of ‘honour’ is
‘kalel’, which is always translated as
‘to curse’, but its literal meaning is to
make light of [from the Hebrew ‘kal’,
Prager continues, “One curses one’s
parents not only if one directs curses
at them, but if one treats them lightly”.
A mother has a natural bond with a child but a father has to build one.