Rev. Dr. Monte Canfield

Rev. Dr. Monte Canfield
Newcomerstown, Ohio, USA
December 28
Rev. Dr. Monte Canfield
Retired Protestant Pastor and Theologian, credentialed in the United Church of Christ; licensed by the Moravian Church . Education: BA, MA, M.Div, Thd. Public Service: NY State Office of Executive Development, Management Intern; Federal Exec. Branch: Executive Office of the President, Budget Examiner, Bureau of the Budget; Interior, Director of Energy and Minerals, Bureau of Land Management; Non Profit: Ford Foundation, Deputy Director, Energy Policy Project; Congressional: Director, Office of Special Projects; Director, Division of Energy and Materials, General Accounting Office. Private industry: Vice President, Grow Group, Inc.; Chief Executive Officer, US Paint; Owner, the Energy Center, St. Louis. Christian service: Pastor, First Congregational UCC, Ottawa, Illinois; Pastor, St. Paul's UCC, Port Washington, Ohio; Pastor, Moravian Church, Gnadenhutten, Ohio. Interim Pastor, the Baltic Parish UCC, Baltic, Ohio; starting 08 2014: Interim Pastor, St. John UCC, Strasburg, OH


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DECEMBER 3, 2009 2:13PM

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

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Commandment Five

As we move toward the end of our series on Exodus and the Decalogue, we now look at the first of the Commandments which relate to our relationship with others.  

The Fifth Commandment, which is verse 12 of Chapter 20, reads: Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You will have noticed by now that, as much as we might wish that the Ten Commandments were a "recipe book for moral living," the truth is that they are all necessarily subject to interpretation. This is especially true of the commandments concerning how we relate to others.  In other words, they do not provide the clear-cut guidance that so many people think that they do.

Much of what I write about the remaining commandments will be interpretation. But, while the Commandments do require interpretation, they are not just random thoughts on how we should live. They are instruction, teaching, as to how God wants believers in him to live. That much is clear.
But what is not so clear is just how we are to obey these instructions. The how of obeying the Commandments is a matter for continuous reflection by the community of faith.  It is never to be only the opinion of one self-righteous individual, out to set the world straight according to his or her own preferences. And that goes for theologians, rabbis, priests, pastors and church leaders.

The first thing you need to know about the Fifth Commandment, Honor your father and your mother, is that it is not primarily about how minor children are to relate to their parents.  

I remember statements from my mother like, "As long as you live under this roof, you are going to do what I say, young man!  Remember, the Bible says you are to obey me!" But, "honor" does not necessarily mean "obey."  That was a convenient "interpretation" by my mother and by many parents.  And it was mostly wrong.  Minor children are supposed to "honor" their parents, but obedience is only a tiny part of the Commandment.

When you are young, obedience is certainly one way to honor your parents.  And a disobedient child does not honor his parents.  But, nowhere does it say that the Commandment, or the Bible for that matter, is to be used as a club to beat kids into obedience.

This provides us with a good example of having to interpret the meaning of the text. "Honor" in Hebrew means a whole lot of things, and obedience is way down the list when translating the word into English.
Other English words and phrases capture the idea better, for example: respect, esteem, appreciate, be considerate toward, have regard for, have concern for, show affection to.  All of these words and phrases capture the flavor of "honor" better than "obey." And there is one more English phrase that captures the essence of the Hebrew word most often translated as "honor." That phrase is "give weight to."

The Hebrew word for "honor" is "kabed"  and literally means "to be heavy," or "to give weight to."  That is, we are to give weight to our fathers and mothers and their ideas.  That is not the same as saying that we are to be subservient to them, obeying their every whim.  But it does mean that we are to take them seriously, and to treat them and their ideas with appropriate seriousness and respect.

Thus this Commandment clearly deals with the age old struggle between generations. On the one hand the older generation wants to cling to "the way we were," and their response to almost everything can often be, "No. We've never done it that way before!" On the other hand, the younger generation often says, essentially, that "Nothing important ever happened on earth until I got here!" And, "Frankly, Dad, you just don't get it."

But the assumption of this Commandment is that what our parents have to say does mean something, and, that our parents do "get it."  The Bible is here teaching us the not so popular idea that our parents, by virtue of knowledge and wisdom they have gained through the years have acquired a certain "practical wisdom" that is actually valuable to us.

In the original setting of this commandment, it was assumed that parents know things about God, and how to relate to God that children do not. We'll come back in a little while to just how realistic that assumption is in today's world. But first we should look at why this was so vitally important at the time the Commandments were given.

To the Israelites this loyalty of a new generation to the world view of the last generation was a key to survival as a nation.  It was emphasized over and over to the Israelites that they were to remember what God has done for them, to write it on their foreheads, and on their door posts, and to pass on that remembrance to their children, and to their children's children!  

Accepting that instruction is precisely how Israelite children, both minor and adult children, were to "honor" their fathers and their mothers. In turn, they were to pass on that word of God to their children in an unbroken line of succession within the faith community.

By respecting, by giving weight to, by taking seriously, the religious teachings of the parents, Israelite children inherited the blessing, the instruction (Torah), and the promises of God.  This is precisely why the Fifth Commandment does not stop with "Honor your father and your mother," but goes on to explain "so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you."

Only by honoring the teachings of the parents, and by honoring the parents themselves, could the next generation inherit the land and prosper in it. The phrase "so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you," was seen as less of a "carrot" to get the children to honor their parents, and more as a statement of fact.

 That is, if they honored their parents then this would, in fact, happen.  Why?  Because, by honoring them, and by listening to and living by the religious precepts they teach, the Israelites would be living according to God's will.

The irony of that original setting when the Commandment was handed down is that it was the generation of the original Israelites who decided not to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, and thus God commanded the Israelites to wander in the desert until that generation was dead and a new generation would then have the courage to enter the Promised Land.

But while the first generation did not have the courage to cross over the Jordan that generation did teach their children the Shema and the Commandments so that the second generation knew what was at stake when they did cross over.

One final thing before we talk about how realistic all of this is in the modern day. The second phrase of this Commandment, "so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you," was not written to apply to individuals.  

That is, one individual could not honor his parents and then assume that he, personally, would live a good and long life in the Promised Land even if no other Israelite did.  The "you" here means "you all." "All of you Israelites, are to honor your mothers and fathers.  And if you do, good things will happen to you all."  

I point this out only because we have a very strong tendency in this country to see the Commandments as having to do only with individual morality, when they, in reality, are much more concerned with how the entire faith community behaves. In this case, the commandment is concerned that all of Israel inherit the Promised Land!

So, having discussed the meaning of "honor" and the application of the Commandment to the original generation of Israelites, the question remains: "How does it apply today?"  

Let's start by admitting the obvious. Many of us Jewish and Christian believers are going to run into all sorts of problems trying to live by it. Lots of people have truly terrible parents; or have one really good parent and another parent who is just pond scum. We read in the paper every day about dead-beat dads, child abuse, molestation, and neglect. We read about drunken or stoned mothers, some carrying babies while on crack or heroin.
And, even if you have parents that are quite fine, if you were born in the last 25 years, the fact is that many parents have absolutely no clue about religion or the moral values that stem from religious teaching.

In fact, most of those parents will be unchurched. If you doubt that consider that most of the members of a typical Protestant congregation don't go to worship, or, if they do, they may go on Christmas and Easter. I'm talking about church members and not about all the millions of nonbelieving parents in this country.

For those who are not practicing believers the Commandments do not apply to them unless they accept them as something they intend to practice.

But they do apply to practicing Jews and Christians. So, for example, just how is a Christian child, minor or adult, supposed to receive religious blessings and instruction from parents who purport to be Christian but in reality are nowhere close to practicing the faith?  The truth is that many will not. And it is also true for Jewish children of non-practicing parents.

But if a Jewish or Christian child, minor or adult, receives religious instruction via the Church or Synagogue then they should understand the Commandments and seek to apply them in their own lives, with or without practicing parents.

And now we come to a difficult, unpopular topic which all believers, Jewish and Christian, should view through the lens of our faith.  We must understand that all issues have at least two sides.  And on the other side of the parenting coin is the fact that parents are not the only people in a family who can be ignorant, willful, inconsiderate, selfish, prideful, and mean.

Let me start this discussion looking at a common problem between parents and adult children. What do we do with our parents when they get too old and frail to care for themselves?

I have a lot of personal experience with that question and some of the not so charitable truth about how it is often handled by children. It was particularly hard for me as a pastor to visit parents of adult children in nursing homes and to know that I saw those parents far more often than did their children. In fact, many children never once visited their parent in a nursing home.

Many was the time when I sat vigil in nursing homes with parents as they waited to go to their Lord and I was the only person who did so. That is a sad commentary on too many children whose parents were, in fact, practicing Christians.

One of the reasons a Pastor should always visit with nursing home residents and at-home shut-ins is so that s/he can be aware of the level and consistency of care by the family, and follow up with the children when they neglect their parents. One would think that there would be good reasons for the lack of visitations but I seldom heard any. Some lived far away from the parent and it was understandable that they could not visit frequently. Others had no such an excuse.

Part of the original purpose of the Fifth Commandment was to ensure that the children not kick out the parents when they became too old to work, and were therefore a "burden" on the children.

Today most of us would not "kick out" our parents in that way. But many of us do remove them from our immediate care. When the burden becomes too great, when we literally can't provide the care, and, sometimes when we just don't want to provide the care, mom or dad ends up in a nursing home.  

I understand that sometimes that is actually best for everyone.  As much as we don't like to admit it, too much of the elder abuse that is reported in the United States comes not from dead-beat children who won't try to take care of mom or dad, but from good children who snap after trying to do too much for too long. It starts with yelling, escalates to slapping and worse. And we are talking about people who would never think that they would do such a thing to an older person, let alone to their own parent.

It should be clear that this issue of elder care is not a simple issue,  A recital of the Fifth Commandment provides little guidance beyond that the burden of proof falls upon those who decide not to be available to their aged parents.

There is no "one size fits all" solution to these problems. There are no good, clean, "easy" answers. At times there is no real choice but a nursing home if we cannot adequately provide for our parents. But that should never be an excuse to place a parent in a nursing home, walk away and never come back.

We deal with our elderly parents today far differently than when I was growing up.  Nursing homes were not really an option then. And families took care of aged parents at home. But with Medicaid and Medicare those options are now available to most of us. And the government sets standards of care that shift some of the obligation of "honoring" our parents to the nursing homes.  

But we would do well to ask ourselves if our parents are truly being "honored" by the elder care system to which we have entrusted them, and by our involvement with our parents who are in such care.  I can't see how we are going to know how our parents who are in institutionalized settings are doing unless we stay actively involved in their lives.

Next:  "Thou shall not kill?"  What can that possibly mean?  How can it possibly be applied?

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My favorite commandment....because no matter what...my parents gave me life, and even in the year I was born, they had another option. xox
I had to face this very thing when I drove some 16 hours up north to visit my folks. My mother is undergoing chemo for the second time, and pretty much an invalid due to the neropathy in her legs from the chemo and my father who seemed very exhausted from being the sole caregiver. First my dad was unwilling to consider bringing in extra help. All of us live out of town, but he felt it would hurt my mother psychologically. However when it came to praying for her it was fine if I did it in private with her at first, because it gave her comfort. But then, after praying about it all night I asked if he would like to join us in prayer. Fear entered his eyes and anger came out of his mouth. Long story short, I broke down with years of sobbing and pain from this type of anger.Because it hurt me so deeply and I was trying to honor him and not retort in anger. The good news is, it realeased me to have more conviction the next day to pray before I left. So much so that the entire family of differing belief systems stayed to pray.They were all in tears. I was blessed by the fact that I had honored him (if that translates into biting your tongue), and that I was able to end the visit with the knowledge that my whole family was blessed and perhaps a few seeds planted.
You wrote very movingly one time about your experience with the elderly who were dying. If I recall, you mentioned that, not infrequently, you were the only one there near and at the end of some people's lives: They had no other visitors. I can see how the two posts mesh.
Very well thought out as always. Thanks.
I am smack dab deep in the middle of trying to figure out what to do with my mom. I am able to travel and visit about 2 or 3x per year. I could not possibly care for her but had been assured it was being done by her children in her town. It appears less and less so to be the truth.
And so now I will step in and do what is needed, pleasing her in the twilight and likely alienating the others. She has accepted that I will not consult those who have never lifted a finger.It warmed my heart the other day when she said she didn't want to hurt me by telling me how little they had really done. She says she always knew I'd step in when it was time. She says it is time and knows I risk turning away what family is left. It won't be a factor for me. I have an unrelenting drive when it comes to helping where help is needed. But, what an idiot I must have been to not tell myself I knew that the cleaned house and cupboards with food in them were only a show put on when I arrived.
So I will arrive for Christmas and her 88th birthday next week, sip the cider and pretend all is well, while I make the proper arrangements to sieze control of her limited funds, cut the pretenders out and try to help her be comfortable.
I hope that is the proper honor.
Thanks Monte.
Very timely post for me. I often feel guilt about not visiting my mother enough even though she lives close to me. I see her about once a week/10 days and I alway try to make it an occasion where we go out and she does something she likes, even if it just having a meal and watching kids play.

It's ironic that I ended up being her caregiver simply due to location since she and didn't speak once for 5 years, and recent years have been difficult due to her mentally ill, thieving husband. But she is my mother, and as the oldest daughter, it seems caring for her and her affairs is my duty, but one that I bear willingly.
Very good post...I shall copy it for my daughter. LOL.
I like the way you bring this first to the broader issue of the community of believers, Monte. That's very interesting, and I'd never thought about the commandment in that context. Thanks for that.

As for the latter question: Those are hard choices. For my wife and I, the concerns are now moot, though we faced them. I do think that, in many ways, the extension of life expectancy is something of a curse. I would never, ever want my kids to have to care for me when they're trying to raise their own families, nor would I wish to be in a a nursing home. It broke my heart that we had to put my wife's father in one. I kept thinking about how he could no longer enjoy a cup of espresso in the morning--a simple but dear pleasure. It's so sad.
Oh, and @alsoknownas: Bless you. If you're bringing her into your home, make sure you get some help. It's essential, believe me!
Good article! Rated. Me momma was a gem. Way smarter than my dad, he never won an argument in their 50+ years of marriage. He told me once when I was just a little boy, "I hope you grow up to be as smart as your mom." Good old Moses, whatta Guy!
I recall your post about the hospice work that you've done. That has to be some tough going. My mother is getting up in age and although we talk several times a week, she's still miles away. Luckily, my younger brother lives two doors down from her and keeps an eye on her, but I still have feelings of neglect and wonder what I can do when things get worse for her.
The economy has me in a real bind (like so many others) and I battle over what I can do if anything should happen. It doesn't make me feel very good about the situation.
She does have some great insurance and has friends that helped her rehab a hip for a few weeks in the nursing home she worked at for 20 years. I've met a few of them and trust them, but it's not the same as being there for her.
Thank you, Robin, for reading, commenting and sticking with this series. I have never thought of it quite like this, " the year I was born, they had another option." But that is so true.

Anne, I think that trip must have been very hard and I am glad that you did have a positive influence on the situation and got to pray for your mom and involve other family members. We both know that your father is not going to change and that it would do not good to confront him. Hard as it was to do you handled it very well.

Hey, B1, there is far too much of that going on when old folks come to the end of this earthly life. There are sometimes good reasons why children cannot be with them, physical, emotional and economic, and I respect that. Too often there is no reason that makes any sense to me, but I am not in the shoes of the children and cannot read their minds. I can only encourage them to be there. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not.

You are very welcome, Cocoa. Glad to see you continuing with the series.

AKA, I went through something very similar before my mother died. Her other children who lived near her did not think she was in bad shape when it was clear that she was. And they did little to make her more comfortable. I asked her to come to live with us in St. Louis (she was in DC) but she said that she wanted to stay with "her boys" where she was. I was one of "her boys" but we had always had a fragile relationship. Bottom line was the she died at home with essentially little professional medical care beyond an oxygen tank, and there really was nothing I could do about it. I wish you the best in dealing with your siblings during what will likely be a difficult Christmas season for you.

Emma, we both have way too many guilt buttons that we push without waiting for anybody else to push them. Visiting your mother every week to 10 days is a lot when compared with what most people can do. I know something of that kind of irony and I know that you honor your mother under difficult circumstances. I laud you for that.

Hi, T.S. Good of you to drop by! I am SURE that just showing this to your daughter will fix everything!!!!!!!!! ;-)

Hey, Pilgrim, I just finished reading the first two chapters of the memoir you are writing. This post fits in nicely, doesn't it? I can't imagine anyone going further to honor parents than you and your wife have done. I have to say that the other children also have done far more than most I have known. Good that you could work as a team on this issue. I look forward to reading the following chapters.

As to this post, it is vitally important that we realize that the Commandments were written primarily for their positive effect on the worshiping community and that is true today.

I am much older than you and I keep saying that I will never go to a nursing home, but the fact is that if I become too much of a burden on Sue that is where I will voluntarily end up. I think we all prefer to die in our sleep without illness or loss of faculties. But the real world is not often that way.

Hello again, Kyle. This about says it all, "I've always known that my parents are flawed humans, just as we all are, but I have always loved, respected, and honored them." I am glad that you have had the kind of relationship with your parents. That is a blessing to both you and them, and to your stepmom.

Hey, Peter, thank you. I am glad that you got your mom's genes as well. I think that I have won a few arguments with my wife from time to time, but not all that often. And there are times when one wins an argument and pays a pretty high price for it!

Hi, Mike. I know how hard it is to be geographically far away from parents as they age. Sometimes you feel pretty helpless. It does, as you know, help a lot to stay in touch by phone and mail, etc. Like all things this recession will come to an end, hopefully before anything really bad happens to your mom. Meanwhile it sounds like she has good support near by. It is never as good as being there but just know that when you get back on your feet again you can spend more time with her and be able to help later on when it will be really important. There is no real guilt in being out of a job, but, like me, you tend to feel guilty when there is no rational reason to. We, you, me and Emma, need to pull off a few of our guilt buttons and throw them away. ;-)
Monte, I have thought a lot about this post...and I'm thinking about how this next part of my journey is about honoring my parents...big, important stuff, to me anyway. xox
I would take the idea of "giving weight" to the elder beyond care of aging parents and apply it to society in the United States as a whole.

Try finding work if you are over 50. Experience is the least valued commodity on the job market. It is not a plus, it is a minus.

I saw a sharp contrast to this overall dishonering of the elder this past summer when my nephew married a woman from South Korea.

The honor bestowed on elder member of the family was just stunning. And they treated the grandparents like royalty.

I'm very blessed because my father started planning for his and my mothers care when he was about 25. I didn't understand what a gift that would be to me. I do now. But I live in a society that has no clue.

Thanks Monte!
Monte, a sister-in-law (ex s-i-l, really) cared for her mother in her home for thirteen years! That's honoring!
This is especially good for me to hear after spending an entire week wishing (silently) that my inlaws would go home already! My father recently suffered a stroke, which has made the care we provide for him and my mother that much more complicated. I have about worn out my mantra: "It's a blessing to still have them with us." However, the grace with which our children see us caring for our parents is surely the maximum we can expect when their turn comes to care for us.

As always, a good summary. I think we (post)modern Americans have a hard time grasping the idea of inherited cultural identity in a hostile world.
Hi again, Robin I think about how well I did or didn't try to honor my parents before they died and I think it is a mixed bag. I did it very well at some times and got so wrapped up in ME at other times that I hardly ever thought of them for long periods of time. I am glad that you are thinking about this now. When you do that then once they are gone you will have a lot fewer regrets.

Roger: I know you are right about the society as a whole as not giving the kind of weight to our elders that we should be giving and your example of your nephew's wife's family shows dramatically a whole different take on what it means to honor the elderly. There is a big cultural factor in it, isn't there?

One of the bad things that comes to pass when a society largely gives up its religious foundations is that the morals taught by religion are not taught elsewhere in the society enough to make a difference in how people view their responsibilities. When we as a society choose to move more and more to a totally secular view then there should be some other system of moral instruction that takes religion's place. In the United States that has not happened and we tend to end up with fractured morality without roots. That is my take on it anyway. Prejudiced, of course.

Thirteen years is a lot of devotion, Pilgrim. I always worry about one who does that burning out. I hope she had some help and lots of support in her efforts.

HL: I read and commented on your post about going through that ordeal. I don't think I would have had a tenth of the patience with it that you and your husband had. As your own parents become more infirm you are facing some hard decisions. But I know you will face them with love and compassion.

I could not agree with you more that postmodern America has little clue about what honoring an inherited cultural identity would look like. There are a lot of reasons for that but we see the strains all the time in the fabric of the culture as we assimilate many cultures into this nation. I think as the Latino population moves increasingly to become the dominant cultural community in the country those of us who represent the dominant cultural ethos currently will find it very hard to accept the change that will represent.
Thank you for this Monte. I admit, I never think about the Commandments. Not being raised in a religious home, they still seem archaic. But I did enjoy this, your thoughts, and where it pressed my mind to wander.
I will always honor me parents, but figured out the obey and put up with abuse part a long time ago. Thank you for publishing this bookmarked and excellent series!
Hi, Molly. The Commandments are at least 3000 years old so in that sense they are archic. They were written at a far different time for a small remnant collection of people who were following their Lord in a search for a new home.

Since they are considered normative for all practicing Jews and almost all practicing Christians the issue for us who profess those faiths is to read them in the light of our circumstances and interpret how, and even if, they apply to the faith communities we inhabit today.

When I analyze them I always try to distinguish between what they meant to the original community to which they were addressed and what they may mean to present day faith communities.

What I inevitably find is that we cannot honestly superimpose them casually on our own cultural/social setting and expect that they will always be meaningful to us. As I mentioned in the essay, "The how of obeying the Commandments is a matter for continuous reflection by the community of faith."

I hope that this series does give you a better idea how old textual imperatives must be addressed by the present worshiping community in every generation. That is a difficult and important task of modern day theologians like myself, and of modern day congregations who supply important lay commentary on the Biblical text, as they seek to discern how not only the Commandments but the entire Bible is speaking to us.

Just as we in this nation see the Constitution as a "living document" subject to change in interpretation of its meaning in the light of current life, so to the Bible is a "living document" subject to the same kind of analysis and introspection.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hi, Zuma. We likely came from similar backgrounds and both know something about abuse. Sometimes it is hard to believe that those of us who came from abusive households turned out as well as we have.

Elders hold a very very important place in society back in India as most everywhere and Mahabharata and Ramayana begins and ends with the sentiment of honoring parents. The collective wisdom of lives well lived is worth honoring in society as a whole.
Thank you as always. I come late but am always around........
Traveller, it is always good to get your perspectives on these issues and I am glad that you have confirmed what I thought to be true that elders are greatly respected in India. We have, in my estimation, lost some of that here in the United States. I have noticed that in my own 70 years on this small sphere. We have it in is to reverse that trend and I pray that we do. This which you say bears repeating, "The collective wisdom of lives well lived is worth honoring in society as a whole."

Blessings and Peace,

I miss my parents so much. God took them home earlier than they or our family ever expected. If they were here today, we would gladly care for them into their elder years.
Another beautiful post, Monte.
Thank you, Cathy, for reading and sticking with this series. I miss my step Dad the most. I think about him all the time. He was a very good man and a wonderful father to me. I guess it won't be all that long before I see him again. I'm looking forward to that.

God bless,

Interesting read, Monte. I will go back and see how you treated the prior 4.
On a side note, I once moved 1800 miles to get away from my family and start my own life. They followed me, and I move the next 1200 to the edge of the continent. But I came back. We fought and we cared for each other in the worst of times. In the end, almost two decades after my mother passed, I took my father in for the last few months of his life. I now see those months as the defining moments in my life, the hardest and most blessed thing I ever got to do or ever will do.
I generally dont think of myself as a Christian, at least not in current parlance, but the underpinings of Judeo-Christianity inform much of my life and I am glad for that, as well as glad for pieces like yours which illustrate so much of what was really meant. Thank you.
Thank you, Tim. Your experience proves both how hard it is to be with family and to be there for your father, and yet how ultimately rewarding it can be to reach out and help our parents when it is in our power to do so.

I do hope that you will read back and pick up on this series, and that the upcoming essays that will conclude it will be meaningful to you.

I am glad to have you as a friend.

Monte- Thank you so much for this piece. Beautiful interpreted and told, I loved it. I needed to read this today..
The years after my parents' deaths have been most illuminating to me, especially because of my circumstances.
My father did everything right. Advanced in the local educational system, bought a series of better and better homes, provided his children with clothes, food, shelter...especially me..20 years extra he threw in! I was nver anything but the apple of his eye, til the end, which i presided over...

Mom and Dad were picture perfect, from an objective view, but a gnawing darkness overcame them, and their children... Now that everything is said and done and there is no more to be written,
I see what the commandment means: give weight to your parents. They are not an expendable product. Abandonment is easy. Sticking-with takes...a curious mixture of dependence and indepence, a living dialetic of caretaker and care-receiver...

I am surrounded by people lately who take family seriously. I have an ex'almost' mom in law to whom i have transferred all my accumulated wisdom of the weight due to ones who
have uncanny wisdom , all the weight i granted to my parents,
taking care of them, but...the weight was sometimes unwilling then..
of that i am ashamed...i could have done more...

Retrospect: to see life's meanings, a bit too late.

I still honor them: i channel their best qualities, and banish from mind the weaknesses...i give them weight, and they make me
able to deal with gravity better..so i don't stumble in vertigo...

They were once real. And...they still are..and..they will have my honor til the day i take my last breath..

James E
It is never too late to honor your parents. In fact, this reminds me that mine deserve a call about now.

I would like you to consider as well, Monte, that while the guidelines for life may not apply to non-believers that doesn't mean they get a free pass. G-d is telling us how He expects us to comport ourselves on a daily basis, and it is up to us to follow His instructions.

Rated. You do an amazing job, Monte, of simplifying the complex. You know my background and where I am today. That I can easily relate to what you've written so far speaks volumes, not to my own religious upbringing but to your grasp of the nuances of belief systems as a whole.
Hi, Bill. I don't think that nonbelievers get a free pass. Only that they are not literally bound to the ethics of the faith. Torah has always, as has Christian theology, been available to anyone who wishes to follow God and to live by his teachings. And I know many nonbelievers, and many believers who no longer participate in organized religion, many like yourself?, who try to live according to what they know of the precepts of Torah, or of the Beatitudes or of the so-called "Golden Rule."

In the end none of this can be imposed upon us, believer or not. It is up to each individual to exercise his or her "free will" and to come to God. Many try that and find that the obligations upon them are harder than they wish to accept. Others decide that the obligations are essentially right and try their best to live the good life under the guidance and protection of YHWH.

The ones that bother me the most are those who go through all the motions of being members of synagogues or churches and have not a clue what the obligations of being a member of a faith community actually are, and, in any case, have not the slightest inclination to pay any attention to them. EG: go to church on Sunday and hear one set of values; go to work on Monday and try to screw as many people as possible out of their hard earned money and never bat an eye or even consider that their behavior on Monday bears no resemblance to the behavior that their faith expects of them.
Monte, I hear everything you are saying but what if your parents are not deserving of your honor? Then what?
Cold here in CT but this is New England and it is to be expected.
Be blessed and be well. Jali.
Good question, Jali. The Commandments are guidelines. Not straight jackets.

The burden of proof does lie with the believer to try to live by any of the commandments. That said, some parents cannot be honored for many obvious reasons, not the least of which is because they chose not to honor the commandments themselves, did not deal honorably with their children, corrupted their own lives, and ruined or stunted the lives of their children.

In that case each individual has to decide whether there is any basis for honoring his or her particular parent at all. If there is none and your heart is clear about it, then it cannot be done. It is time then to move on.

If it is not possible to move on in spite of having nothing to do with your parent, and if the issue has festered for a long time perhaps it is time to seek some counseling help. It is one thing not to honor a parent, it is quite something else to allow the harm to your self that the parent inflicted to continue to destroy you. At a minimum you deserve that the parent's hold on your happiness be released.

The commandments are guides for living. They are not infallible. And they do not apply to all cases. God gave us brains and hearts for a reason. And one of those reasons is to "do the right thing."