Friday, July 22, 2011

Honor Thy Father and Mother

Two years ago I discovered a jewel in the writings of the late Abraham Joshua Heschel. Dr. Heschel was a Hasidic rabbi and prominent leader in the 1960's civil rights movement. His wisdom and prescience on caring for the vulnerable in society still reverberate through today. Here is a nugget from him concerning care for the elderly, via Trent Gilliss of NPR's "On Being" blog:

What we owe the old is reverence, but all they ask for is consideration, attention, not to be discarded and forgotten. What they deserve is preference, yet we do not even grant them equality. One father finds it possible to sustain a dozen children, yet a dozen children find it impossible to sustain one father.

Perhaps this is the most distressing aspect of the situation. The care for the old is regarded as an act of charity rather than as a supreme privilege. In the never dying utterance of the Ten Commandments, the God of Israel did not proclaim: Honor Me, Revere Me. He proclaimed instead: Revere your father and your mother. There is no reverence for God without reverence for father and mother.

In Jewish tradition the honor for father and mother is a commandment, the perfect fulfillment of which surpasses the power of man. There is no limit to what one ought to do in carrying out this privilege of devotion. God is invisible, but my mother is His presence….”