It is my week with my sister to lead the discussion on our book and this week the commandment highlighted is “honor your father and mother”. Doesn’t seem like you can get much simpler than that but as usual, Chittister puts some new thoughts to paper and challenges me to think beyond the simple definition of this commandment.
Of course we honor our parents! That seems ridiculous to question what this commandment means but the author challenges us to think perhaps beyond our biological parents and think of all the “sages” that have influenced our lives. We are to care for those who cared for us AND think about the generations to come.
It was interesting that she highlighted 3 specific funeral rituals of Judaism that I had no knowledge of but am glad that she provided in the book.
1. A dead body is likened to a damaged Torah scroll: while it is no longer able to be used for its original purpose it is still to be revered for its holy purpose.
2. Kaddish-the Jewish prayer that affirms life and reiterates faith and acceptance of God’s will is actually said daily for 11 months – 1 day. This allows the parents to show that parenthood in itself is a holy act.
3. The celebration of Avelur–the 12 month mourning period that many Jewish communities follow as parents is longer than the mourning period for any other relationship even a spouse. Our parents deserve special reverence
Our relationships with our families may be a little bit different than those in early Israel where tribes and families were the backbone of society. Our current families suffer all kinds of fissures and we do not “take care of our own” like many other cultures do. I don’t know what the answer is but we sure could use some work on our care of those who came before us and who need us now. There are some great examples of good care out there but then there are so many that are forgotten. That is what breaks my heart.
I guess the main thing that I took away from this chapter was this—“It is not simply a mandate to remember the past but to be aware through it of our own responsibility to the future. We are the sages of tomorrow, we come to realize.” Yikes—I hardly can think of myself as a sage but I get what she means. It is our responsibility to make the best for future generations. It begins with honoring the past, our parents and those who made a place for us. I was blessed with parents who were fabulous examples–I know not everyone has that in their lives but I did and count it a huge blessing.
In closing I liked what she said in her thoughts to ponder:
“No parents are typical. No parents are perfect. We do not honor them for that. We honor them becasue they did what they could in making us what we are. The rest we were meant to do for ourselves.” AMEN!!!