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    The fifth commandment

    The commandments were engraved on two stone tablets – five on one, five on the other. According to tradition, the first five are between man and God, and the second five between man and man.

    The symmetry is impressive, but the fifth commandment seems to spoil the system. Surely “Honour your father and mother” belongs to the second tablet! How can it be on the first as a law between man and God?

    To find an answer we have to go back to the beginning of history. Man was created alone and felt lonely. He needed relationships. “I am here,” said the Almighty. On one level that provided a relationship.

    But on the social level man was still alone. So God created another being, Eve, as Adam’s earthly partner.

    But both relationships came with a price tag. The relationship with God brought responsibilities, as did that with fellow creatures. Man had to look both above and laterally.

    Looking above brought the duty, “Love the Lord your God” (also part of this sidra). Laterally the duty was “Love your fellow as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). But the second duty said something more: “Love your fellow as yourself: I am the Lord”.

    Earthly love, of which the basic level is love of parents, was only possible because of the Lord. Loving one’s parents is thus a duty we owe to God.

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