Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kedoshim-Grateful for fathers,mothers and the Sabbath Day

This Parasha is often considered one of the most morally significant sections of the Torah- at the heart of the many ethical injunctions beats the aspiration toward the Godly reality of holiness in the spiritual world of humankind. It has been pointed out that in fact we discover in this segment unmistakable references to and some expansions of, the Ten Commandments. Perhaps the most popular of all Torah declarations is found in this Torah section-”You shall love your neighbor as yourself!”(Lev. 19:18)

From the “scattering” of so many laws, both ethical and ritual, there have been attempts to impose some philosophical or conceptual order on the diversity of content in our chapter. Some connections appear natural while others are somewhat strained.

I would like to share one attempted association that on the surface don't appear to have much connection or equivalency; as a matter of fact , traditional commentators view the two verses as suggesting a situation in which conflict arises and difficult choices must be made.

A man must fear his mother and his father and observe My sabbaths.”(Lev. 19:3) According to the Halachik interpretation of these passages-Rashi et al-should an individual be commanded by one's parent(s) to violate the Sabbath , the Torah makes it clear that he must disobey his parents (a transgression of the fifth commandment) and not violate the Sabbath(the fourth commandment) related to the higher authority of God.

I see in these passages a different spiritual insight , one at the heart of Torah itself.I believe that both verses contain an underlining principle that is reinforced and supported by both passages. In the verse read about “fearing” mother and father, the Hebrew-”tee-ra-oo”-תיראו- is usually translated as “you shall fear”-”yaroh”-ירא- meaning fear. However, I would prefer to translate the word-”tee-ra-ooh” as you should be in awe of.While fear can be viewed as a powerful pedagogical tool in moral education, its benefits are short-lived and often misguided and counter productive. Positive behavior can indeed be arrived at out of fear; indeed much of our legal system is founded upon the fear of penalty and punishment. The younger child naturally behaves at home because of the fear of parents, a fear that continues to influence the behavior of our young, up to a certain point. But in the total scheme of things spiritual, fear fuels suspicion, anger and antagonism. Fear divides us, creating distance and distrust. Whether in our relationships to our parents or to God, few would disagree that the higher form of relationship is that founded not on fear as much as one based on reverence-awe and love.

How does one arrive at the reverence for parents? I suggest that the awareness of the gift of life and its care and cultivation provided by parents allows one to relate to one's parent from the perspective of reverential and loving gratitude.as partners with God in the act of creation and continued nurturance, the child is called upon to experience gratitude and thanksgiving in the parental relationship; a crucial component of the child's love for her parent is that of gratitude.

From gratitude to parents the Torah then naturally proceeds to bring our attention to the need for gratitude in relation to the world that is a gift to all of us, a gift which is acknowledged and celebrated each Shabbat -”Remember the Sabbath day- for in six days He created the universe and rested on the seventh day.”Simply put, Shabbat is essentially a day of gratefulness.

Therefore, the injunction to bein awe of one's parents and to observe the Sabbath have nothing to do with conflict; rather they complement and reinforce each other in the deepening capacity of the human heart to cultivate gratefulness in one's life and in this way arrive at stage of greater holiness and come closer to God the Source of all holiness.

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