In this week’s Parsha, the Torah states, איש אמו ואביו תיראו, “Every man must respect his mother and father” (19:3). On the other hand, the Aseret Hadibrot say, “Honor your father and mother.” What is the difference between respect and honor? Respect means that one should not contradict his parents, stand, or sit in their places. However, honor means that a child should see that his parents are provided with all they need in any aspect of life.
Why is it that in Parshat Kedoshim the mother is mentioned before the father whereas in the Aseret Hadibrot the father is mentioned before the mother? The fact is, we must honor and fear both parents equally. However, if one’s mother and father simultaneously request of their child to perform two separate actions, the child should first tend to his father’s needs because a wife is obligated to honor her husband. However, it is natural that children are less afraid of their mothers than of their fathers, and therefore the Torah mentions the mother first when demanding respect from the children. On the other hand, it is a child’s natural tendency to hold the mother in higher esteem than the father, and so the Torah found it necessary to place the father first when ordaining honor for the parents.
The Pasuk ends, ואת שבתותי תשמרו אני ה' אלוקיכם, “Guard My Shabbatot; I am Hashem, your God.” This teaches us that a child must ignore his parents’ wishes if they tell him to violate a commandment of the Torah. For example, the Shulchan Aruch specifically states that if a child wishes to study in a Yeshiva where he would benefit in his Torah learning and his father disagrees, he does not need to listen to his father. The Mitzva of studying Torah overrides the Mitzva of honoring one’s parents.