As our Parsha opens, we are taught that we must each fear our mother and father (ויקרא י"ט:ג'). The obvious question would seem to be why we are learning about this now when we have already been commanded to respect our parents in the Aseres HaDibros (שמות כ':י"ב)? Rashi on the spot in our Parsha explains that whereas in the Aseres HaDibros we were commanded to respect our parents, an endearing term, here we are commanded to fear them, but he then takes note of the fact that in the Aseres HaDibros, the father is mentioned first, while in our Parsha the mother comes first. Why is this? When we are taught to respect, Rashi explains, the father is put first so we understand that, although one would naturally tend to respect a warm caring mother, a stringent father must likewise be respected. Here, when we are taught to fear our parents, the mother comes first so that we know to fear her as well as the father whom one fears naturally.
By presenting things this way, the Torah lets us better understand the totality of how we should best treat our parents who came before us. To better illustrate what is considered proper treatment of one's parents, we may turn to the Gemara in Kiddushin (:דף ל:-ל"א) where we see what the sages of the Gemara considered proper respect for their parents. This respect extended to the point that when, for example, Rabbi Tarfon told of how he would stoop down to allow his mother to step on him in order to aid her in getting into her bed, he was told that he did not fulfill even half his requirement to respect his parents. Seeing the tremendous lengths to which our sages went in terms of the proper treatment of their parents gives us a better idea of how lax we often are in this area.
Included in this requirement which our sages went to such great lengths to fulfill is the seemingly rather simple requirement not to contradict one's parents, as mentioned in that Gemara (שם). However, it is a detail which is often commonly transgressed in many households. It is important that we not lose track of what our parents have done for us and not immediately disregard their opinions which we might see as antiquated or obsolete. This is an extremely important ideal of our religion to hold on to, especially in a society which believes that each generation is more enlightened than the one before it. Chazal teach us that the generation which participated in Mattan Torah was the most enlightened, being the closest to the source of enlightenment, namely, the Torah; every generation afterward, being further from the source, is thus less enlightened. This idea contradicts the mode of thought in our modern society, where, as the worlds of science and technology, and of transportation and communication, continue to evolve and be improved upon, people too evolve in thought and philosophy. While this "evolution" may be true for those worlds, however, it can not be applied to the world of Torah. Torah is counter-evolutionary, each generation having to struggle harder than the last to understand the words of Torah. We must keep this in mind in focusing on our relationship with those of the generation before us, so that we will not be improperly influenced by the world around us and thereby make the error of considering ourselves superior to them, and our own ideas and ideals superior to theirs. Instead, we should see the value of the traditions and beliefs which they have and thereby make them part of our own lives. By demonstrating proper respect for and fear of our parents, therefore, we are actually solidifying the chain of Jewish tradition, and bringing the Torah down to yet another generation.