No-one needs to be told that respecting parents is part of Judaism. We already know this from the Ten Commandments. The reminder that comes in this week’s reading merely reinforces the established principle – though with one new feature, the placing of the mother first when in the Ten Commandments the father is mentioned before the mother. What this teaches us, say the sages, is that our duty is to both parents, whether we enumerate father before mother or mother before father.
However, there is a second new feature, not only the placing of the mother before the father. The second new feature is the words, “I am the Lord your God”. They imply, “Even if you would otherwise not want to respect your parents, you must still do so precisely because it is My wish.”
A child might dislike his or her parents because of something they did or the child imagines that they did. The child might be fed up with life and resent the fact that his parents brought him into the world. Such a child might prefer not to know his parents or at least not to accord them any respect. But if the child is God-fearing, turning his back on his parents is not an option.
“Respect your father and mother, hopefully because you appreciate them – but if not, then do it because it was My will that gave your parents this child, and because it is My wish that you accord them honour” – that is the Divine message that comes with the passage we have quoted.