The Moral Command: Honor Your Father and Your Mother

Last Saturday I got up at 3:00 am to get ready so I could make a 6:00 a.m. flight to Nashville, TN.  I was in Nashville by 6:45 a.m. and flew back to Washington, D.C. by 7:45 p.m. that same night. In Nashville, I attended Early Torah at “The Temple” (the congregation in which I grew up), I went to the JCC and swam my daily mile, I looked through old pictures and told the same stories about growing up and the lessons learned, and through it all I felt loved. It felt good; it felt warm, cozy, and secure; it was Mac and Cheese, a blazing fire sitting on the hearth on a cold night, Thanksgiving and Shabbat dinner all rolled into one. It was being tucked in and kissed at night with unconditional love through conversation and memory. It was, for a busy rabbi, a few sacred hours with my mom for Father’s Day.

I am 60 years old and I still know there is one soul who will love me no matter what — to whom I am not a rabbi, a community leader, a friend, a man, an anything or anybody, but simply a son, a child. There is a human soul who feels its primary role in life was, is, and will always be to love me.

The Torah in its primary code of Law for all of human civilization, the Ten Commandments, declares, “You shall Honor your Father and Mother.” The Torah clearly understands the powerful foundational relationship between parent and child is holy. In the sacred hours I spent with my 88-year-old mother just before our first Father’s Day without my father I knew and know the truth of this moral law oh so well. 

The bond between a child and parent is sacred. To ignore this command is to ignore God! It is to ignore the very things that make us human. Yet, since my trip, I have not been able to sleep. The conversations I had with my own mother, a Holocaust survivor, keep me up at night. You see, my mother spoke as clearly to me about the events of our day as her love speaks to my soul. She spoke about how she fears that we are back in the political environment of the 1930’s. A time when she witnessed humanity’s failure to be human. When hate overtook love. When governments put political ideology before human care and compassion. When members of the human family were singled out and segregated and treated like animals and not as human beings, children of God. When the slippery slope of political rhetoric turned one act of inhumanity and cruelty into many acts allowing murder. When the moral code of God was ignored for a greater political good. I can’t sleep because I don’t want to be part of a generation of religious leaders who again ignore the sounds of children being torn from their mother’s arms and do nothing!   

Our government’s present “Zero Tolerance” stance which results in innocent children being taken and separated from their parents is wrong on so many levels. To stand by idly and silently is wrong as well! I need not delineate for you all the textual justification. I need to simply remind you I got up at age 60 at 3:00 a.m. to be able to see my mother for several sacred hours. How will a five-year-old, a ten-year-old, any child of any age repair the hurt and the pain that being forcibly separated from their parents will cause? This will “Make America Great Again”?

We are Jews: Our God gave to humanity the gift of the Torah and gave us the moral responsibility to ensure that it’s word and its laws will bring love and justice into our world.  Now is the time to speak out against any policy that allows innocent children to be separated from their parents! Please, act now. God is watching and so is your MOM!