Thus far we have discussed the details of the command to honor our
parents. The Torah also requires that we fear them: ďA man must fear his
mother and father, and observe my Shabboses, I am the Lord your G-d1 .Ē There are a number of aspects to this
commandment but all of them are based on the concept that we should show
deference to our parents as a sign of respect for whom they are and
everything that they have done for us. They include:
1. A child is not supposed to sit in his parentís place. For example, a
parent often sits on a specific couch or has his place around the dining
table. It is forbidden for a child to sit in this place without the
express permission of his parent.
2. A child should stand up as soon as the parent first enters the house or
room and when he leaves for the day. He need not stand up every single
time that the parent enters or exits. If the parent feels uncomfortable
about this practice then the child does not have to stand when his parent
enters and leaves.
3. A child should not call his parents by their first name. It is a sign
of lack of respect to speak to a parent in such a fashion. Even when the
parent is not present, it is proper not to mention his parentís name
without giving him a title first. For example, one should try to refer to
his father (whose name is John Smith) as Mr John Smith, or his mother, as
Mrs Sarah Smith. Again, if the parent does not want the child to follow
this practice then one is not obligated to do so. Nonetheless, it is
advisable not to call oneís parents by their first name in order to
maintain oneís own personal sense of respect for them. This law even
applies after the parents are no longer alive.
4. A child is not allowed to contradict his parent. If a parent
expresses an opinion then the child should not express his discontentment
with it. However, if the child feels that the parent may make a wrong
decision based on his opinions then it may be allowed for the child to
respectfully offer his suggestion on the matter.
5. Furthermore, a child is not even allowed to confirm that his parentís
opinion is correct. For example, if the parent says that he thinks the
stock market will go up, the child should not say, Ďdad, I think youíre
rightí. It is somewhat condescending for a child to assert that he
confirms that his parentís views are correct.
At first, these laws seem very difficult to observe partly because in the
Western world many children look on their parents as their equals. The
Torah teaches us that this is not the case - a child should hold his
parents in awe and treat them with deference.