Thursday, January 24, 2008

Honor Your Father and Mother

The fifth commandment is to honor one's parents.

The famous Yehudi HaKadosh, zt"l, would deliver a regular Gemara shiur to his students that explored the commentary of Tosfos. One of his students was an extremely talented local boy who was unfortunately orphaned of his father. Once, the Rebbe interrupted their learning so that he could concentrate deeply on a certain subject. His young student knew well that such a break could last an hour or more, so he took advantage of the pause to go home and eat.

The boy ate a quick meal and hurried out back to his Rebbe's home, but his mother called out after him that she wanted him to go up to the attic and bring something down for her. In his rush to return to study, he ignored her call, but half-way back the boy had second thoughts. "Isn't the whole purpose of study to fulfill the mitzvos? Shouldn't I honor my mother instead?" he asked himself. So he ran home and did as he was bid.

Afterward he returned to his studies, and as he opened the door to the Rebbe's house, the Yehudi HaKadosh snapped out of his reverie and rose to his full height as a sign of respect. Beaming, the Yehudi HaKadosh asked, "What mitzvah have you just performed, because it has brought the spirit of the great Amorah Abaye with you into my house."

The student told his story, and the Rebbe explained to the rest of the students: "It is well known that Abaye was an orphan—his name is an acronym of the verse, 'For in You does the orphan find mercy.' ('Asher B'cha Yerucham Yasom .') This is why his spirit accompanies a person who fulfills the mitzvah of honoring his parents—so that he should have a part in a mitzvah that was denied to him. You want to know why am I smiling? Because Abaye came and answered my question on the Tosafos!"

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