By: Meira Weber
“Honor your father and mother, in order that your days be lengthened on the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
It’s the Fifth out of Ten Commandments. In Judaism, honoring one’s father and mother is a vital mitzvah (commandment) that recognizes the synthesis of God’s power to give life with the physical beings who help carry out that miracle of creation. More simply, it holds the key to the age-old success of the family unit. When children show honor towards their fathers and mothers, parents can be more effective caregivers, and children learn healthy guidance and how to follow rules.
With summer fast approaching, young children and teen-agers in school are wrapping up their final exams and excitedly making their summer plans. Families are planning vacations, preparing for summer camps, and stocking up on ice cream and popsicles. The Israeli heat has finally pushed back the winter for good, and the sun is brighter and hotter than ever. Parents all over the country are preparing for a summer of having the kids home again, getting ready to slip back into the role of all-day caregiver, entertainer, chef, and above all, parent. All kids know how their parents care for them, and honoring them in return is an easy task, because it comes, in part, from gratitude.
But what about when children no longer need to be cared for? How can an adult continue to honor his parents if he no longer needs their shelter, food, and guidance? For young children, honoring their parents is a natural side effect of living with them. It’s when those same children become adults that this question arises. How do you honor a person who now lives totally separate from yourself?
According to Judaism, the best way for such an adult to honor his parents is to provide for them in their old age. Making sure that a parent is occupied, cared for, happy – it’s the best thing a child can do for them, and the highest honor that a parent can be accorded. It is a vital commandment that is taken very seriously.
The community of Tomer, located in the heart of Biblical Israel, the Jordan Valley, has taken this commandment to heart. The parents – and grandparents – of Tomer were trailblazing pioneers who cultivated wild land into a lush community amongst the arid hills of the Jordan Valley, establishing and building the community into what it is today. Their children have grown up in Tomer, enjoying the place that their parents built for them, and relishing in the Biblical Homeland that they were finally able to inherit.
As people, the pioneers of Tomer are remarkable, and well deserve the honor of others. But their children know exactly how best to express that honor, and they plan to act on it – and not just because they are commanded to. The children, now adults, are working to create a senior center for their aging parents to spend time in and enjoy. The center will house the community’s archives and a library as well as regularly scheduled activities for the original Tomer pioneers; it will epitomize the commandment of honoring one’s parents, and take that mitzvah to an entirely new level. It is the perfect fulfillment of this vital commandment, and is the best way a community like Tomer can honor the pioneers that raised them.
My parents are still fairly young and do not yet need to be provided for, but I am still very conscious of the honor I owe to them. Anyone can give another person respect, but only a child can honor their parents in the way that we are commanded to, with love and willingness and devotion.