Honoring parents is a mitzvah
By Laura Seymour

We conclude our exploration of tikkun olam. The Hebrew word tikkun means to “fix” or “heal” something that is broken; olam means “world.”
Kibud Av V’em is the mitzvah of honoring your parents, and it is so important that it is one of the Ten Commandments. Honoring your parents is different than loving them, and we show honor in different ways at different ages.
According to the Mishnah, honoring parents is one of the mitzvot for which one is rewarded in this world and in the world to come. The Zohar says: “Honor your father and your mother just as you honor God, for all three have been partners in your creation.”
Mitzvah hero of today’s world: your parents
There are times when we are angry at our parents and times when we have certainly thought, and maybe said, some not-so-nice things. Being a parent is the hardest job there is, and the most heroic thing parents do is to love their children unconditionally. Even when parents are angry at your actions, they never forget that most important mitzvah — B’tzelem Elohim: We were created in God’s image.
A parent’s job is to remember this and to help each of us become all we can be. Parents aren’t perfect and that’s good, because children aren’t perfect, either. Parents are the perfect heroes because they are real and we can strive to be like them.
All of the mitzvot we studied this summer are taught to us by our parents and demonstrated by our parents. Being a parent is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs.
In our ancestor’s footsteps: your ancestors
Our theme for the summer has been all about “heroes” and “mentors” and “role models.” Each week, we are reminded that “we can see further because we are standing on the shoulders of giants.” We are challenged to look at the “giants” in our history and our families to appreciate all they have done and the lessons we learn from them.
It is a true mitzvah to honor those who came before us. We honor them by working to emulate their good qualities. We must ask our parents and grandparents to tell us the stories of our family heroes and we must pass those stories down to our children. And, most important, we learn how to be heroes to those coming after us.
The information for this summer’s weekly themes came from “Jewish Heroes Jewish Values — Living Mitzvot in Today’s World” by Barry L. Schwartz, published by Behrman House Inc. in 1996.
Family talk time

  • The commandment is to honor your parents, not to love them. How is that different? Can you honor without love? Can you love without honor?
  • Our parents are the most important “heroes” or “mentors” in our lives. Let your parents tell you what they admired about their parents. And the children should tell in what ways they would like to be like their parents.
  • Many of us think about the “perfect parent” or the “perfect child”. Have a family talk about what this “perfect ______” would be like. Why would that be so great? How could we each try to be closer to the ideal?

Laura Seymour is director of youth and camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.

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