The Gemara in Masechet Nidda (31a) tells us that there are three partners involved in the forming of a person: Hashem, the father, and the mother. Each, by contributing something unique, plays a crucial role in bringing about a child’s existence. By stating this partnership, the Gemara may be alluding to the wide variety of laws and customs that take place in the interpersonal relationships among children, parents, and of Hashem. One example may be found at the beginning of our Parsha, where the Torah states, “Every man shall fear his mother and father, and you shall observe My Shabbatot; I am Hashem, your God” (19:3). Rashi comments, using the idea also found in Bava Metzia (32a), that this verse comes to teach us that a child should refuse his parent’s request that he desecrate the Shabbat because ultimately Hashem and His Torah take precedence. Rashi, paraphrasing the Gemara, says that since child and parent are both obligated to honor Hashem, one is not to listen to a request that would nullify any of Hashem’s words. This would not constitute disobeying a parent; rather, this would be adhering to the word of Hashem.
The Maharal, in his sefer Gur Aryeh, asks about the Gemara’s choice of words. Since the Torah talks about fear for one’s parents, the Gemara should also say that both parent and child are obligated to fear Hashem (as opposed to being obligated to honor Him). The Maharal says that if the word ‘fear’ was used the message would be lacking. If honoring a parent involved a failure to observe Shabbat in some positive way without actively sinning, one may think this is all right, as he is still displaying fear of Hashem by not actively transgressing. However, if both child and parent are obligated to honor Hashem, then failure to observe Shabbat, even in a positive way, constitutes a lack of honor. As the Kli Yakar points out, a request to violate the Shabbat undermines the belief that Hashem is the sole Creator. Requesting this of a child is tantamount to saying that Hashem is not a member of the partnership of birth! Hashem is honored by both our action and inaction.
We see from the above comments that the most productive environment is one in which both child and parent are centered on the common goal of serving Hashem. The Rashbam on our Pasuk says that parental fear and Shabbat observance are adjacent here just as they are in the Aseret Hadibrot. The message is that respect for parents is equated with respect for Hashem. How can this be? Perhaps we are being told that honoring Hashem cannot be done to its fullest if we do not understand what it means to honor one’s parents. It is questionable to seek Hashem and simultaneously avoid the path that is given to reach that goal. Parents, and for that matter one’s family, should be viewed as a vehicle through which the individual’s development is achieved. In this regard, Shabbat is most certainly the best example! Is there any other day that has the Kedusha of Shabbat and promotes camaraderie as Shabbat does? Through working together with family and friends, may we all make use of the opportunity to create an environment in which Hashem is honored and glorified.