Parshat Kedoshim - Friday, April 25, 2014 - 25 Nissan, 5774 
Torah Reading: Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1 - 20:27) 
Haftorah: Ezekiel 20:2 - 20  
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 7:27 PM 
Shabbat ends: 8:31 PM 


Honor and Revere Parents
The Torah commands us to both honor and revere our parents. Judaism’s emphasis on a child’s relationship to his parents is unparalleled. In the grouping of the Commandments known as the Aseres Hadibros (usually rendered as the “Ten Commandments,” but more accurately described as the “Ten Statements”) the word used is kabed, which is usually translated as “honor.” Our Oral Tradition tells us that kabed has a more focused meaning in this context, which is to provide our parents with their needs. In this week’s parsha the term tira’u is used, which can be translated as fear or reverence. In the Oral tradition this is interpreted to mean, for example, that one may not say or do anything disrespectful to a parent.
In this week’s parsha, the Torah juxtaposes the commandment to revere a parent with the commandment to observe the Shabbos. Our Sages derive from this arrangement that a child may not listen to a parent who asks him to violate the Shabbos. Our Sages extended this understanding and stated further that one may never follow the instructions of a parent if they contradict any of the laws of the Torah.
A question has been raised why this lesson was not derived from the earlier juxtaposition of the two Commandments, to remember the Shabbos and honor our parents, found in Parshas Yisro.  In the fourth of the Ten Statements, the Torah says, “Remember the Shabbos and keep it holy.” It is followed by the fifth statement, “Honor your father and mother.” Why do our Sages not make the same observation here that the reason these two commandments are juxtaposed is to teach us that honoring parents does not override observing the Shabbos?
Our Space
To answer this question we have to better understand the difference between honoring parents and revering them.
Although the word kabed is usually translated as honor, it actually implies a heaviness or “gravitas.” We look at our parents as inherently possessing special qualities. However, the question may be raised, what if they are not that “heavy” in terms of their virtues and accomplishments? Why must they be honored regardless of their degree of worthiness?
A child must accord honor to a parent (unless the parent is a vile criminal) because the parent is a partner with G‑d in the creation of the offspring. And, by honoring our parents we are vicariously honoring the Other Partner as well. Thus our Sages declare: “The honor due to parents is equivalent to the honor due to the Omnipresent.”
The choice of the term “Omnipresent” as opposed to other names used for G‑d indicates that parents are G‑d’s agents withinour sphere of influence; they are G‑dly agents that pervade our space; they make G‑d accessible to us just by virtue of being our parents.
Honoring Parents: The Bridge
We can now understand why the commandment to honor parents is the last one placed on the first Tablet. The difference between the two Tablets (onto which the Ten Statements were etched) is that the first Tablet covers our relationship with G‑d, whereas the second Tablet covers our relationship with our fellows. The last commandment in the first column then is the bridge between the two categories of commandments. Honoring one’s parents is certainly a moral imperative, expressing as it does gratitude for their involvement in our lives from our very creation through our development, education and maturation. It is much more than that though; it is our way of expressing our gratitude to G‑d for “sharing” us with His partners, and giving us one more way of connecting to Him.
The first Tablet lists the commandments in the descending order of the depth of our relationship with G‑d that they express. This insight helps us understand why the fifth commandment follows the commandment to remember the Shabbos. Shabbos is not just a holy day. When Shabbos enters, we are transported into G‑d’s “space.” We are like guests are invited to the royal banquet at which the King Himself is present. Shabbos is clearly more intensely Divine than the honoring of parents. The fifth and final commandment on the first Tablet is, conversely, where honoring our parents invites G‑d to enter into our space. By demonstrating how we view our parents as G‑d’s partners we connect to G‑d as well.
It is self-evident why Shabbos takes precedence over honoring our parents. If Shabbos is G‑d’s invitation to us to be in His space, it would be ludicrous for us to think that we can turn down His invitation and instead invite Him into our home!
Respect for Higher Authority
As stated, in this week’s parsha the Torah refers to the commandment to have reverence for a parent. Among other things, this commandment is meant to instill within us respect for a Higher authority. G‑d is not visible to us so a child would be hard-pressed to grasp the notion of His authority without which no society can escape the ravages of anarchy. To inculcate the notion of authority, G‑d gave us parents, who along with teachers and other authority figures, serve as models for the ultimate Authority, G‑d. 
Shabbos observance, where every detail of our behavior is regulated, makes us more conscientious and aware of our obligations; it cultivates within us a profound respect for G‑d. And if Shabbos is when we are invited into G‑d’s space, as discussed earlier, one is surely most attuned to obeying the king when one is in the king’s own palace, sitting at his table.
In our parsha this week, the Torah reorders the presentation and cites the need for reverence for parents before the need to observe Shabbos. As physical beings, we are better suited to appreciate the role of authority when it is vested in tangible and visible human beings—our parents. Shabbos, by contrast, requires much contemplation and reflection to be aware of our presence in G‑d’s space.
Thus, one might be tempted to conclude that respect for a parent—the model for authority that leads to reverence for G‑d, the ultimate Authority—takes precedence over the Shabbos. If the goal is respect for a higher authority then one might erroneously conclude that it makes more sense to let our filial duty override the observance of Shabbos.
However logical this conclusion may sound, the Torah dismisses this thought by juxtaposing the two commandments to instruct us that as important as it is for us to respect our parents, we may not allow that respect to get in the way of our other obligations to G‑d.
The rationale for this conclusion is hinted in the next few words of the foregoing verse: “I am G‑d your G‑d.” Rashi points out that the phrase was intended to explain why one must not follow the instructions of a parent when it is in conflict with the Torah: “You and your father are obliged to honor Me.” In other worlds, how could a father’s will override G‑d’s will when the father is also obliged to follow G‑d’s will?
Honor in Reverse
As is often the case, another question can be raised here. Rashi’s wording appears problematic. Rashi uses the word “honor”: “You and your father are obliged to honor Me.” If the issue is that the parental authority is subordinate to Divine authority Rashi should have stated: “Your parents are also obliged to revere Me.” Why bring in the notion of honor when it is not the subject mentioned here?
One may base an answer to this question on a teaching of the Rebbe.  He observed that this law, that one may not listen to a parent’s instruction to violate a commandment, is, ironically, codified in the laws of honoring parents. This suggests that when we do not follow our parents’ will to break the law, we actually honor them. When a child behaves improperly it can reflect on the parents and bring them dishonor, particularly if the child behaves badly at the behest of the parents. Conversely, when a child does the right thing, it brings honor to the parents.
We can now understand why Rashi refers to the parents’ obligation to honor G‑d too. It suggests that it brings honor to G‑d when the child does what’s right and, therefore, also honors the parents. In effect, doing the right thing does not demonstrate disregard for the parents; on the contrary, it brings them honor.
The Test of Leadership
This notion, that we may never infringe on G‑d’s will even for the sake of respecting another human, is what makes our belief in our leaders, particularly Moshiach the ultimate leader, unique. Our respect for them is exclusively due to their commitment to the will of G‑d. If a leader, even a prophet, were to command us to stray one iota from Torah, we would know that it is our duty to reject his command. The leader is no less duty bound to honor G‑d in the way G‑d asked for us to honor Him.
Thus, our test for Moshiach will not be his ability to perform miracles. Rather, the test is whether he is totally committed to every detail and nuance of Torah. And to the extent that we follow G‑d’s will at his behest, we bring honor to him.
Moshiach Matters
In the present, the Torah is garbed in narratives - the story of Laban [Jacob's father-in-law], the story of Bilam [the non-Jewish prophet], and the like. In the time to come, however, it will become apparent how these stories in fact speak of G‑d, of the building of the supernal world.
(Keter Shem Tov)