Why did the Ten Commandments given in this Parasha transform the world forever? Because nine out of ten of them put moral limitations on human behavior. And because the First Commandment — “I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt” — suggests an eternal Source for this morality, and that behavior can be objectively right or wrong.
There is also nothing obvious about any of the Ten Commandments. We can slip up in any one of them, any day — even kill another person, as shocking as this may sound, through our silence or through our words.
Overall, the laws derived from these Commandments are a call to sensitivity, in order to build a just world and reach our highest potentials, each according to her/his unique, amazing roles and character traits.
It begins with our closest relationships: “Honor your father and your mother.” Our sages suggest guidelines for this mitzvah, including to provide our parents with food, drink, and clothing, to not sit in their place or contradict their words. To show gratitude to the people credited with our existence. Whether or not we succeed in the subtleties of this critical mitzvah, the awareness that it is a commandment definitely impacts our relationships with our parents, and informs our relationships with our children, helping them to honor us.
Our love and interest in our children produce mutual respect. Conversely, a parent who expects honor without giving love will go the way of the insightful saying in Pirkei Avot: “One who chases after honor, honor will flee from them.”
During these Corona days when we all struggle with time-management, I realize more than ever how both limitations and attention are critical for our kids.
For my junior high-schooler, it means sticking to her bedtime ceremony — going to her room sometime between 9:30 and 10 p.m., to talk, say Shema, and take her cellphone, giving it back before her first Zoom the next morning, after she washes her hands and says basic morning blessings. My schedule is actually not so different from hers lately — personal example is still the best teacher.
And for kids in general today, it means helping assuage the guilt they may feel for being behind in Online assignments or personal goals, or conversely, feeling lost with nothing to do. Good music and hugs are a comfort, even shopping and cooking with them when they are game. It also means weathering their occasional chutzpah, cheering their achievements, and accepting their choices, because their paths are their own — not ours! We need the faith to be with them, to pray for them, to be thankful. Halevai, that our children surpass us in fulfilling their dreams, and that their journeys inspire us to reach higher.
There is nothing like a pandemic to remind us of our parenting power and potential. And to remember that when we make mistakes, today is a completely new day. It is the only day that matters to the ones we love.