Saturday, July 13, 2013

Va'etchanan 73 Honoring Parents and the Sabbath

The weekly Bible-Torah reading from the book of Deuteronomy- Devarim  is Va'etchanan . Here Moses continues with his last sermon to the children of Israel and begins a discussion and review of many of  God's laws. He begins with a review of the 10 commandments. 

Most of the textual differences between the 10 commandments received on Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus and the account here in Deuteronomy are  due to Moses wanting to emphasize and teach certain lessons.  The Mesach Hachmah is his commentary notes that in the second set of the 10 commandments  - the words '  as God commanded ' are added to the 4th commandment  -  Keeping and honoring  the Sabbath  and the 5th commandment – honoring parents. These words ' as God commanded ' do not appear in the   first set of the 10 commandments.

The Mesach Hachmah explains that there are good reasons for keeping and thereby honoring the Sabbath. People work hard all week and the Sabbath is a welcome day of rest , an opportunity to desist from physical  creativity  and focus on connecting with God and spend time studying his Torah and its laws. In the desert – people did not have to work , they received ' manna' from heaven and their lives were very spiritual connecting with God and studying Torah all the time. There was no extrinsic need for a Sabbath in the desert.

The same was true for the commandment of ' Honoring Parents. The obligation to honor parents is from our feelings of gratitude to them for attending to our needs and raising us. In the desert , parents did not need to work for a living, in a miraculous way kids clothes grew on them as they aged, and the environment was very spiritual and providing. There was really very little reason to express gratitude to parents.

Moses is teaching , that the reason for keeping and honoring the Sabbath , and also honoring parents is not because of extrinsic reasons such as social benefits or gratitude to parents but should be done out of our obligation to fulfill God's commandments.

So what does God want from us here. We learned in the Ethics of our fathers – Pirkei Avot  - who is honored ? He , who honors others. ' Who is honored does not depend on something extrinsic – the number of people who honor a person , but a person having the intrinsic  trait or characteristic of being a person who honors others. So God does not want that we should keep and honor the Sabbath because of social and spiritual reasons , but we should  become  the type of  person who gives honor to the Sabbath by keeping the Sabbath. God does not want us to honor parents because of an extrinsic reason like gratitude but become  the type of person who has the ' midah' – characteristic of ' honoring parents.'

If we are saying that we are to honor parents and keep the Sabbath because of its inherent value – the right thing to do ,  so why does the Bible- Torah attach a reward for doing this commandment – Honor your father and your mother as ' Hashem ' your God has commanded you so that your days will be lengthened and it will be good for you Upon the land that 'Hashem ' your God gives to you.

The Torah is telling us that the good deed- mitvah of honoring parents has its reward in the world to come and a person will enjoy the ' fruits of his positive actions ' in this world. This means that  God will support  him in his efforts to do more positive things and impact on peoples' lives in this world and in the world to come he will be in a position to enjoy the spirituality of the next world.

Traditional ' rewards and punishments ' encourage a child to ask ' what's in it for me and gets in the way of the child asking – 'what kind of person do I want to be' . The reward that the Bible talks about is merely , for example  -honoring parents – as a   consequence of us making efforts to lengthen their lives and improve the quality of their parents  lives ,God offers us support to continue being the persons we want to be.

1 comment:

  1. thank u for your nice drasha
    let us honour one another
    and make the best of the "other"
    kipa sruga as it appeared in the last few days is not AMALK and we should not be thinking of it as an the "big" duds of SHAS go on miss leading their crowd....where is the honour?where is VEAHAVT LEREACH KAMOCA..shabat shalom