Listen to Who!

(Torah Portion Kedoshim) Listen to Who!

There is a verse in our portion that states: “Each person must revere their mother and father, and My Shabbos you should observe, I am Hashem your G-d.” The glaring question is what is the connection between having reverence for parents and the Mitzvah of observing the Shabbos?

Rashi quoting the Talmud explains that the Torah is addressing the following dilemma. What is a son or daughter to do when a parent asks them to do something which is in violation of the Shabbos? Who are they to listen to? On the one hand G-d commands them to honor their parents, and on the other hand, the Torah commands them to observe the Shabbos. The verse therefore places the two commandments together and concludes with the words, “I am Hashem.” Since both, parents and children are commanded to listen to G-d and observe the Shabbos, the Mitzvah of the Shabbos takes precedence over the parent’s instruction since it conflicts with the Torah’s command.

Rabbi Yaacov Kamenetzky o.b.m. wonders why the Torah specifically chose the Mitzvah of the observance of Shabbos to teach us the solution to this dilemma.

He explains: People who believe in the theory of evolution claim that man evolved from apes and the like. They therefore feel that with each coming generation man becomes more human and they distance themselves from their “esteemed” ancestors. Theoretically, according to their thinking, instead of children honoring parents, parents should honor children, since the generation that follows is better – they are more human and developed, and today, more technologically adept than their predecessors!

But we, who know that our original ancestors [Adam and Eve] were formed by G-d Himself, realize that the generation that precedes us is one step closer to the spirituality that was invested by the Personal Hand of G-d. It is therefore incumbent upon us to honor our parents who are the link and connection and a step closer to our spiritual source.

With this introduction we can understand why the Torah juxtaposes the Mitzvah of revering parents with the law of observing the Shabbos. Our observance of the Shabbos serves as a confirmation, and acts as a banner that G-d created the world and mankind in the six days of creation and then ceased from creating on the seventh day – the Holy day of Shabbos.

This belief causes us to respect and give reverence to our forbearers, and primarily to our parents. For through our respect of the previous generation, we display our recognition that G-d created mankind.

Rabbi Kamenetzky’s assessment materialized in the following incident:
A noted Israeli evolutionist was sitting next to Rabbi Kamenetzky on a plane trip to Israel. During the course of the trip they struck up a conversation. Towards the end of the trip, the man expressed his amazement that the rabbi’s son had accompanied his elderly father on the trip, and how he was awed by the way he graciously attended to his father’s every need. This prompted him to ask Reb Yaacov, “Why is it that I do not have the same close relationship with my children? In fact I am estranged from two of my children, and my third child, well; we seldom communicate.”

Reb Yaacov explained, “My children look at me as the transmitter of our tradition to them. I am their link to a generation closer to the great spiritual level our ancestors acquired at the Revelation at Mount Sinai. They are another generation away from this high spiritual level, and they look back at their spiritual past to be their guide for the future. They want a part of that past.” Reb Yaacov continued, “As an evolutionist you believe you evolved from an ape, a mere animal. This is the message you imparted to your children. The way they look at you is that you are one generation closer to an ape. Therefore, the further they distance themselves from their ancestors, the more human they feel.” The man was visibly touched by the Rabbi’s explanation and thanked him for his insight and elucidation!

This week’s Portion is called Kedoshim – which mean holy ones. The Torah commands us to be holy. How is this attained? There are many ways we can become holy through observing the laws.

The Megaleh Amukos tells us that a powerful way of achieving holiness is through our sanctified and refined speech. He explains that the letters of the Alef Bais can be vocalized in one of five ways; either through the throat, the tongue, the lips, the palate or the teeth.

The word Kedusha – means holy, and remarkably the five letters of the word Kedusha come from all five parts of the mouth.

Kuf – is expressed through the palate, Daled – the tongue, Vuv – the lips, Shin – the teeth and Hay – the throat.

This is a compelling indication that the way to sanctify ourselves is through utilizing all aspects of speech for the right purposes. That means not speaking disparagingly of others and not using foul language; and speaking calmly and pleasantly and by saying the truth and by praying.

Besides achieving holiness, we also engender ourselves to others by creating an atmosphere of Shalom – peace – and promote feelings of respect and admiration among ourselves.

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks