Honor Your Father and Mother

Help! My kids don't respect me. How to raise children that fulfill the commandment of honoring father and mother.

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Special Shabbat Reading

Special readings are applicable this Shabbat.

  • Shabbat Nachamu (שבת נחמו | Sabbath of comforting)
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26

Shabbat Nachamu ("Sabbath of comfort/ing) takes its name from the haftarah from Isaiah in the Book of Isaiah 40:1-26 that speaks of "comforting" the Jewish people for their suffering. It the first of seven haftarahs of consolation leading up to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Va'etchanan (ואתחנן | I pleaded)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1-26
  • Gospel: Luke 3:2-15

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Deuteronomy 3:23 | Moses Views Canaan from Pisgah
    • Deuteronomy 4:1 | Moses Commands Obedience
    • Deuteronomy 4:41 | Cities of Refuge East of the Jordan
    • Deuteronomy 4:44 | Transition to the Second Address
    • Deuteronomy 5:1 | The Ten Commandments
    • Deuteronomy 5:22 | Moses the Mediator of God's Will
    • Deuteronomy 6:1 | The Great Commandment
    • Deuteronomy 6:10 | Caution against Disobedience
    • Deuteronomy 7:1 | A Chosen People
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 40:1 | God's People Are Comforted

Portion Summary

The forty-fifth reading from the Torah and the second reading from the book of Deuteronomy is named Va'etchanan (ואתחנן), which means "and I besought." The title comes from the first verse of the reading, which says, "I also pleaded (va'etchanan) with the LORD at that time" (Deuteronomy 3:23). The portion completes the historical prologue of the Deuteronomy covenant document and begins a rehearsal of the stipulations. Part of that rehearsal is a repetition of the Ten Commandments and the famous first passage of the Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

The Torah tells us to honor our parents. Jewish tradition teaches that, at the very least, this means making sure that our parents are provided for in their old age. The spirit of the law, however, asks us to treat our parents with profound respect:

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be prolonged and that it may go well with you on the land which the LORD your God gives you. (Deuteronomy 5:16)

In the modern world, youth counter-cultures have learned to find their own identity by defining themselves in antithesis to the previous generation. Whole generations of human beings are raised to believe that disrespect for parents and disdain for their expectations is the normal and healthy path to individuality and adulthood.

It is not uncommon to hear young people today speak back to their parents, argue with them publicly or reply to them with sarcasm or open exasperation. For believers, this is not acceptable. Our young people need to realize that even contradicting their parents is taboo. Public impertinence toward parents is a grievous sin.

Popular culture portrays it as cool for children and teens to appear autonomous and on a peer level with their parents. Secular teens hate being seen in public with their parents, and accepting parental authority hampers the perception of their coolness. The Bible would call "coolness" pride and haughtiness.

Parents also have a responsibility around this commandment. They need to be careful not to raise disrespectful children who will find it difficult to keep the commandment of honoring them. A parent should not grant any allowance for disrespect.

However, a father cannot teach his child to honor him by demanding honor. Neither can a mother teach her child to honor her by demanding to be honored. Instead, we teach our children to honor us by honoring our own parents and by honoring our spouses.

A parent must never take sides with a child against the other parent. If you feel that your spouse is wrong, take your spouse's side anyway. Do not contradict your spouse in front of the children. Disagreements with a spouse should never be spoken in the hearing of the children.

When your child treats your spouse with disrespect, it is your job to rebuke the child on behalf of your spouse: "Do not speak to your father that way." "Never speak to your mother like that."

When a child observes his mother honor his father and vice versa, the child learns the art of honoring father and mother. Only the mother can properly teach a child to honor the father. Only the father can properly teach a child to honor the mother.

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