Honor and Fear by Oren Levy


The Torah commands the Jew, “Ish Imo Veaviv Tirau Veet Shabtotay Tishmoru,”  “Fear your father and mother and keep Shabbat.” The Torah links the fear of one’s parents and the keeping of the Shabbat. We find that Shemirat Shabbat is also linked with another commandment involving Yirah, “Et Shabtotay Tishmoru Umikdashi Tirau,” “You shall keep My Shabbat and fear My sanctuary.” The Rav examined the connection between Shabbat and these two commandments that require Yirah. The Gemara (Kidushin 31b) explains that there are two forms of honor involving a parent: Kavod (respect) and Morah (fear).

The Gemara defines Kavod as physical care given to a parent, like bathing them, clothing them, feeding them etc. The child is responsible for the physical needs of the parent, even if the child must pay for them (in certain circumstances) from his own resources. The Torah commands that we extend Kavod to a parent, and similar Kavod is to be given to a Talmid Chacham as well (Morah Rabcha Kemorah Shamayim, the reverence required from student to teacher is similar to the reverence a person must give Hashem). The Gemara defines Morah as acting in a reverent way towards the parent. For example, one may not sit in his father’s chair or contradict him.

Kavod applies to Hashem as well as a human being (e.g. Kavod Habriyot).  Morah, awe or reverence, is a characteristic that applies solely to Hashem and not to a human being. The Morah that is required towards Hashem is not the fear of punishment, Morah Haonesh, but rather it is the Morah Haromemut, awe and reverence at the exaltation of Hashem. Applying the attribute of reverence to a mortal being borders on the blasphemous. So why did the Torah command us to give Yirah to a father and mother? Also, how is it possible to show Yirah towards an object, for example the Mishkan?

The Gemara (Yevamot 6a) says that just as one does not exhibit Yirah for Shabbat, but for the One who commanded us about the Shabbat, we do not show Yirah for an object (the Mishkan), but we show Yirah for the One that commanded us to show that Yirah; to Hashem. Similarly, according to the Torah, an expression of Yirah for a parent is equivalent to showing Yirah for Hashem. The Gemara (Kidushin 31b) says that Rabbi Yoseph would rise up when he heard his mother’s footsteps and would say that he is rising because he hears the Shechina approaching. Rabbi Yoseph did not say that he was rising out of Kavod, respect, for his mother. Rather he rose out of awe and reverence which he was obligated to show for Hashem. Just as the Divine Presence, Hashroat Hashechina, is encapsulated in the Mishkan, it is also personified in each father and mother. When a child shows reverence, Morah, for his parent he is expressing Yirat Hashem.

Morah for a parent is connected to Shemirat Shabbat because the Shechina shines on, and through the Shabbat. We recite Friday night “Pnay Shabbat Nekablah.”  This means let us greet the Shechinah that is inherent in the Shabbat day. When we keep the Shabbat we exhibit awe and reverence to Hashem who gave us the Shabbat. For this reason, Shabbat is called the great and holy day, Yom Zeh Gadol Vekadosh. We ascribe to Shabbat the same attributes, Gadol Vekadosh, that we ascribe to Hashem. Shabbat, Morah Av Veaim and Morah Mishkan all have the common theme that fulfillment of the Mitzva results in an expression of Yirah, awe, for the Shechina.

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