Honouring One’s Parents

The Fifth Commandment, “Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother,” is a pillar of ethical guidance across diverse cultures and traditions. Rooted in the teachings of the Torah and echoed through generations, this commandment emphasizes the profound importance of respecting and cherishing our parents.

First Teachers

Our journey into the world begins under the guidance of our parents, who serve as our first teachers, imparting invaluable wisdom and shaping our understanding of life. My teacher, Yehudis Golshevsky, recently delivered a poignant discourse on honouring one’s parents, coinciding with her father’s passing anniversary. In the rich tapestry of Jewish tradition, this moment, known as yahrtzeit, prompts reflections on the enduring impact of parental influence and the lessons gleaned from the Torah.

Navigating the complexities of parent-child relationships, as elucidated by the sages of the Talmud, unveils the profound challenges inherent in fulfilling this commandment. Through narratives like that of Andre Taylor, whose upbringing defied societal norms yet underscored the essence of familial love and connection, we gain insights into the intricate dynamics at play.

“G-d brought me from the gutter; my mother was a prostitute; my dad was a pimp. I was born from the womb of a prostitute by the seed of a pimp. But the context is this is my mother and father, and regardless of how society has seen them, there was no way I could see them in that light… they hugged me, they loved me, and they cared for me and even though society says this is the scum of the earth this was not my reality.”

Emotional Complexity

Rebbetzin Golshevsky discusses the challenge of honouring one’s parents, as emphasized by the sages of the Talmud. This commandment is complicated because we need control over the family and historical circumstances in which we are born. Many individuals may desire a different upbringing or different parents.

According to Halacha, the real struggle of honouring parents lies within our thoughts and attitudes, which requires deep introspection. Ibn Ezra also stresses that emotions towards parents can remain intense and even become consuming in adulthood. This emotional intensity may obscure the profound debt we owe to our biological parents, making it unfortunate that attaining the necessary insight to show proper respect often takes considerable time for many individuals.

Digital Tributes

Rebbetzin Golshevsky shares a video with her family and students, recounting her journey with her father and the significant transformations they experienced together. She highlights the evolving nature of their relationship. In a poignant moment, Rebbetzin Golshevsky discusses her father’s desire to have specific songs played at his yahrtzeit as he nears the end of his life. Little did he know that this commemoration would occur over Zoom during a pandemic. Surprisingly, his dear friend Michael, who was in Jerusalem, played his favourite tunes on the piano – Gershwin’s ‘Autumn Leaves’ and Ray Charles’s ‘You Don’t Know Me.’ The musical tribute commences at the 45:14-minute mark, adding a poignant dimension to the commemoration, which can be viewed here.

Amidst the challenges of this year, which the pandemic has overshadowed, my family found comfort and strength through Zoom. We came together virtually to honour the yahrzeits of my beloved parents, Esther Edith (Z’l) and Eliezer Leslie (Z’l), and the pictures we captured are precious memories. This emotional gathering served as a testament to their lasting influence and created a tapestry of memories and celebration through the digital world.

In this digital realm, we brought to life my parents’ vibrant spirits, shared cherished memories and stories, and ensured that their legacies will continue to shine for generations. Through our shared stories, the next generation caught glimpses of the extraordinary individuals who paved their path.

Looking back, I remember my mother Esther Edith’s witty declaration during our Passover seders: “If not for me, none of you would be here!” She always said it with playful wisdom, filling the room with laughter and love. These virtual commemorations stand as monuments to their memory, offering a timeless way to preserve and pass down the essence of our family’s story to those who will tread the path after us.

The fifth commandment urges us to respect and honour our parents, a timeless principle that resonates across different cultures and traditions. Our parents are our first teachers who guide us through the complexities of life. By showing reverence and appreciation towards them, we express our gratitude for their unwavering love and preserve the valuable lessons they have taught us. As a result, we maintain the essence of our family’s heritage for generations to come.

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