The Fifth Commandment – Part 1

The Fifth Commandment – Part 1 Rabbi Michael Weiner

God commands that everyone honor their parents. I can’t get past the word “honor” (and I won’t today). In Hebrew it is Kabed (Kaf-Bet-Dalet). More on this after I give you the Hebrew (in transliteration) and English of the fifth commandment. The entire commandment is in one verse.

Exodus 20:12(11)* Kabed Et-Avicha, V’Et-Imecha – L’ma’an, Ya’arichun Yamecha, Al Ha’a’damah, Asher-Adonai(YHVH) Elohecha Noten L’cha.
* Verse 12 in most translations, but verse 11 in Hebrew versions.

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long upon the land which Adonai your God is giving you.

Our focus today is on the first word, Kabed. The ShoreshKavod meaning glorify. It is a word with a wide variety of related interpretations. The NASB translates this word in many ways. Here are some of them along with the frequency of each translation.

abounding (1), achieve honor (1), became fierce (1), became heavy (1), boasting (1), burdensome (1), dim (1), distinguished (3), dull (2), enjoy your glory (1), glorified (4), glorify (7), glorious (2), glorious things (1), grave (1), grew strong (1), harden (1), hardened (6), heavier (2), heavy (6), held in honor (1), honor (17), honor you greatly (1), honorable (4), honored (19), honoring (2), honors (5), indeed honor (1), laid burdens (1), made my heavy (1), made our heavy (2), made your heavy (3), make (1), make it glorious (1), makes himself rich (1), multiply (2), nobles (1), respected (1), stopped (1), weigh (1), weigh heavily (1), went heavily (1). (courtesy

It is easy to see the preponderance of interpretations involve “honor.” Interestingly, in second place is words involving “heavy,” such as “weighty.” I love it when street slang connects to Hebrew usage. I can just see a beatnik saying, “Man, that’s heavy,” while meaning how “profound, serious, weighty” and yes, even “glorious.”

The first use of the word is to describe Abraham’s accumulation of cattle in Genesis 13:2 as Kabed Me’od, meaning very glorious (he was rich in cattle). Which brings me to another (as yet unspoken) interpretation. Have you ever heard of an honorarium? This is a sum of money paid, as one dictionary puts it, “a payment given for professional services that are rendered nominally without charge.”

Therefore; among the many possible meanings of that first word Kabed-honor is an understanding that we should pay our parents. How? I’m glad you asked. Take care of them when they are old and can’t take care of themselves. (This is becoming more important to me the older I get.) The command is to take care of your parents, so that your children will see your good example and in turn take care of you.

This was the subject of Yeshua’s admonition to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were being critical that Yeshua’s disciples did not observe the tradition of ritual hand washing before eating a meal. (There is a prescribed methodology.) Yeshua put the focus back on them. Matthew 15:3-6 And answering, He said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever tells his father or mother, “Whatever you might have gained from me is a gift to God,” he need not honor his father.’ On account of your tradition, you made void the word of God.”

Yeshua is referencing a “work-around” the rabbis had created so a person could be relieved of the responsibility to care for parents. There was a tradition that a sacrifice of pigeons would absolve a person from the responsibility to care for or provide for the care of aged parents. Yeshua took them to task for this, saying … Matthew 15:7-9 Hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

I’ll pick this up next time, but before I do, let me add this. Whenever we obey God, we get His blessing. And so it is with honoring parents. But, what if your parents are not honorable? Aaah, something more to write for another day.