Posts tagged " honoring parents "

Get Ready for Mother’s Day

January 8th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 5 comments

Mother’s Day is sacrosanct. It is almost a law of nature. Nobody dare disparage the purchase of those boxes of chocolate and the saccharine-flavored greeting cards that accompany them. Few would discourage dragging mom out to a crowded restaurant for that obligatory Mother’s Day meal. Were I to  question its value as a revered date on our calendar closer to its date in May, I would be excoriated for blasphemy. This week however, my Thought Tool can be welcomed as, oh say, research.

You see, here is what bothers me about it: Most would agree that the Ten Commandments lie at the core of Western civilization. Well, the Fifth Commandment doesn’t instruct us only to honor our fathers and mothers on two special days each year, does it? No, the Commandment is valid for 365 days each year and 366 in leap years.

My wife and I have always suspected that observance of an annual Mother’s Day or Father’s Day actually diminishes observance of the Fifth Commandment. Not wanting to run the risk of that happening, we just declared from our children’s infancy that in our home, every day would be Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

To my relief, our children accepted this, but on growing a little older, they inquired about another verse found early in the 19th chapter of Leviticus.

Everyone should fear his mother and father.  
(Leviticus 19:3)

Contrasting this with that Fifth Commandment which did so much for our family’s lifestyle, they asked, “Why reverse the order of father and mother?” In the Ten Commandments, “Honor your father and mother” but in Leviticus, “Fear your mother and father”.  Does the Bible instruct us to honor our fathers more than our mothers but to fear our mothers more than our fathers?

Of course not! The Bible never asks us to do the easy and the natural. In fact, its very greatness is how it introduces us to the revolutionary idea that makes Western civilization possible. Namely that it is not only possible, but vital that we overcome nature, particularly our own. Behaving naturally is not the goal, dominating our nature is.

Toilet training a young child is an early time this lesson is administered. Don’t relieve yourself when it would be natural to do so, just as animals do. Be unnatural. Hold it in until an appropriate time and until you’re in an appropriate place. Behaving naturally is not the goal; dominating our nature is.

Although many in America consider it uncivilized to eat without first saying a blessing of gratitude for the food, it would be hard to find instructions about grace before meals in the Bible.  However, in the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy we are clearly instructed to give thanks after eating.

And you shall eat, be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God. 
(Deuteronomy 8:10)

Ancient Jewish wisdom assures us that most of us feel considerably more spiritual and holy when hungry. (This dictum must be related closely to the one about no atheists in foxholes!) Fasting is necessary to observe the Day of Atonement because it puts us in the mood to atone. Since hunger induces piety, it is completely natural for all normal, sensitive humans to say grace prior to satisfying their hunger. Thus, we can be counted on to do so without instruction. What is unnatural is for the satiated diner with bulging belly, to pause prior to staggering away from the table in order to express profound gratitude to the Creator. That is an amazingly unnatural feat and it is precisely what is demanded of us.

Similarly, most of us feel a natural respect toward our mothers while we feel a natural fear of our fathers. I know that as a child, I much preferred my frequent mischief to be discovered first by my mother. Thus the Fifth Commandment teaches us the unnatural. Honor your father as much as you would naturally honor your mother. Then, in Leviticus, fear your mother just as much as you naturally fear your father. In other words, always strive to be far better than nature dictates. Behaving naturally is not the goal, dominating our nature is.

Mother’s Day may be part of nature, but it is unnatural and far more desirable to make today and tomorrow, and yes, everyday, just as much a Mother’s Day as will be May 12th.  If you do this really well, perhaps good, old Mom will let you off that dreadful Mother’s Day lunch.

Another question on which the Bible gives us guidance is which relationship gets priority:  our spouse or child. Early in Genesis, we find advice that differs for men and women. We discuss this and many other tips for marriage in our audio CD, Madam, I’m Adam: Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden. Right now, both the physical and download versions are on sale.

Rabbi Lapin Download

S

A

L

E

Madam, I’m Adam
Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden MP3
Madam, I’m Adam:
Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden CD

 

My father is having an affair!

August 21st, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 26 comments

On a day in March, 2018, I found out that my father was having an affair. The identity of the woman at the time was unknown to myself, although I did suspect it was my aunt. It took me several months of fighting myself on what to do with the information, as I did not want to harm my mother emotionally with it. But after much thought I did disclose my findings to her. However, I did not tell her I suspected the woman was her own sister. My mother had her doubts about the whole thing and I know she was in denial in order to protect herself from the hurt.

Today my sister and I after some further investigation found out that the woman is indeed my mother’s own sister. I am in anguish and torment because of the findings and do not know what to do.

This goes against every teaching we were brought up with. I’m disappointed and feel pain and sorrow. Should we keep this secret to ourselves or should we tell my mom? I thought about speaking to my father about it, but he gets aggressive and tells me to stay out of his marriage because he doesn’t involve himself in mine. Please help!

Kayla

Dear Kayla,

You and your sister are in tremendous pain. The structure on which your lives were built, including values and trust in your parents has been shaken. You are angry, hurt, disappointed, betrayed, confused and if we may say so, probably a little vengeful. That is all natural. But natural is not necessarily right.

(more…)

My Parents are Separating

May 15th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 7 comments

Dear Rabbi and Susan Lapin,

First off, thank you for all that you both do and the wisdom you dispense through your podcasts, books and teachings. I find them all tremendously valuable and you have impacted my life for the better.

I have a question regarding my parents. Their marriage has been on the rocks for the past five years and they are now choosing to separate, but not divorce, because of their beliefs. Their issue is not due to infidelity but seems to be a communication and pride problem. They have been married for over forty years and have raised five children together, of which I am the youngest.

My question is what should our response be as their adult children? My instinct is to not get involved or share my opinions because it could be seen as taking sides and it doesn’t seem respectful.

As for background: we all live near our parents, there are many grandchildren in the family, we are all Christians, and we see each other often. I am struggling to identify what my responsibility is in this situation while still honoring my parents. My wife and I disagree with them not choosing to work harder on their marriage but we don’t know if it is our place to confront them on it.

One of my siblings suggested talking to them as a group, what do you think?

Any insights you could provide would be most welcome. Thank you tremendously.

Blessings,

Sam

Dear Sam,

Your sad situation reflects an important truth. No matter how old one’s children are, divorce is going to affect them. Of course, it also affects more distant relatives, friends, social circles and work groups. We are very sorry that you and your siblings and children are facing this situation.

Having said that, your instincts are spot on. In our audio CD on the Ten Commandments we explain why the Fifth Commandment about honoring parents is related to the Tenth Commandment, “Do not covet.” In short, recognizing one’s specific place in relationship to others is something that leads to happier interactions. We also explain why the Fifth Commandment is placed on the first tablet that otherwise deals with the interaction between people and God, while the second tablet deals with interactions between people and people. Honoring parents seems to be in the wrong place. Correctly understanding why there were two tablets clears up this confusion but even on a basic level it is clear that one’s parents occupy a position that no other people do.

(more…)

Sign up to receive our AAJC newsletter and our free weekly teachings!

Sign Up Now!

Follow AAJC on its new Facebook Page!
X