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F1. Honoring and Revering Our Father and Mother.    [Make a Comment]

We are to honor and revere our father and mother.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 20:12 (Maimonides RP210; Meir MP41; Chinuch C33)
Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land which ADONAI your God is giving you.

Exodus 21:151 (Maimonides RN319; Meir MN44; Chinuch C48)
Whoever attacks his father or mother must be put to death.

Exodus 21:172 (Maimonides RN318; Meir MN46; Chinuch C260)
Whoever curses his father or mother must be put to death.

Leviticus 19:2-3 (Maimonides RP211; Meir MP42; Chinuch C212)
Speak to the entire community of Isra'el; tell them, 'You people are to be holy because I, ADONAI your God, am holy. Every one of you is to revere his father and mother, and you are to keep my Shabbats; I am ADONAI your God.

Leviticus 19:32 (Maimonides RP209; Meir MP17; Chinuch C257)
Stand up in the presence of a person with gray hair, show respect for the old; you are to fear your God; I am ADONAI.

Leviticus 20:93 (Maimonides RN318; Chinuch C260)
A person who curses his father or mother must be put to death; having cursed his father or his mother, his blood is on him.

Mark 10:19
You know the mitzvot - 'Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't give false testimony, don't defraud, honor your father and mother ...'

Ephesians 6:1-3
Children, what you should do in union with the Lord is obey your parents, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" - this is the first commandment that embodies a promise - "so that it may go well with you, and you may live long in the Land."

Colossians 3:20
Children, obey your parents in everything; for this pleases the Lord.

1 Timothy 5:1-2
Do not rebuke an older man sharply, but appeal to him as you would to a father; treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers and younger women like sisters, with absolute purity.

1. Death sentences that were statutorily authorized to be carried out by the ancient government of Israel (under the Mosaic Covenant) are no longer authorized in the absence of that government and under the New Covenant.

2. ibid.

3. ibid.

Supportive Scriptures

Proverbs 20:20
Whoever curses his father or mother - his lamp will go out in total darkness.

Proverbs 23:22
Listen to your father, who gave you life; and don't despise your mother when she gets old.

Proverbs 30:17
The eye that mocks his father and scorns obeying his mother will be pecked out by the ravens in the valley, and the vultures will eat it.

1 Timothy 5:8
Moreover, anyone who does not provide for his own people, especially for his family, has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.


Honoring our father and mother involves respecting them for their parental position both privately and in public. It also implies obeying them when we are young, but never in a way that disobeys or dishonors God. Although, by promising long life in the land, it is clear that Exodus 20:12 and Ephesians 6:1-3 are addressing Israelites, the instructions they convey are morally universal and are therefore appplicable for Gentiles as well.

The King James Version of the Bible translates "tira'u" (derived from "yara") in Leviticus 19:3 as "Ye shall fear", whereas other versions translate the word "revere" or "respect". We are not to be frightened by our parents (that is not the kind of "fear" of them we are to have). We are rather to regard them with awesome respect, for God holds them accountable to train us up in righteousness (Proverbs 22:6), and He holds us accountable for how we treat them - how we speak of them, and how we speak to them. We are not to usurp their authority, speak for them (unless asked), contradict them before others in a way that would cause them embarrassment or dishonor and, of course, not curse them or strike them. Our obligation to honor and revere God (Proverbs 3:9; Leviticus 24:15; Deuternomy 6:13)4, and it is incumbent upon us, even should they do wrong to us or follow ungodly paths in aspects of their personal lives.

The relevance of 1 Timothy 5:8 is that providing materially for one's parents, especially when they are at an advanced age, is one way of honoring and revering them, and not supporting them when there is a need to do so is the opposite. It is commonly thought that 1 Timothy 5:8 is only a reference to husbands supporting their wives and children, but the context in the ancient world (as well as in many places in the world today) included one's parents, because aging parents commonly lived with (or close by) their children. This principle is verified in Meir's commentary to his mitzvah MP41.

4. Similar to the King James Version's translation of "tira'u" in Leviticus 19:3, most translators of Deuteronomy 6:13 translate "tira" (also derived from "yara") as "fear".

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch have not combined honoring and revering parents into a single mitzvah. Instead, they wrote separate mitzvot for each, the combined essence of which agrees entirely with this Mitzvah.

In regard to honoring our parents, all three make reference to places in the Talmud, most prominently, tractate Kiddushin, and also to the Sifra (Leviticus 19:3)5. Maimonides adds that we are required to care for our parents when they become old; Meir agrees and goes into some detail of our obligation to financially support our parents when necessary. He further says that we are to attend our father as a servant would attend his master, but we are not to sin in following our parents' instructions.

In regard to revering our parents, all three commentators link reverence to fear, and instruct against standing or sitting in one's father's place. Meir says that we are not to contradict our father's words or refer to him by his name. HaChinuch is detailed in other ways, and raises the question of how far reverence of parents should go. He indicates that we must be able to suffer indignities and wrongs done to us without putting our parents to shame, and we must be respectful of them even if their minds become deranged in connection with their age. Of course, we are not to curse them or strike them.

5. Halachic midrash to Leviticus.


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