Every Man: Your father and your mother shall you revere and my Shabbos you shall observe, I am Hashem your G-d. (Vayikra 18:3)
This is one of several verses in which the commandment to honor one’s parents is juxtaposed with the commandment to observe Shabbos. The Chasam Sofer gives several explanations for this juxtaposition, and I would like to expand on one of his explanations.
When we speak about people who are of sound mind and body when they retire from their jobs, we speak about the upcoming “golden years”. I understand that the concept refers to people who have accomplished much during their lifetimes and want to now “cash-in” on the golden nest egg (whether financial, emotional, or spiritual), and do the things that they enjoy, while not being hindered with obligations. Yet by the time many people’s lives are up to the “golden” era, they unfortunately have other issues with which to deal that do not permit them to “cash in” on this opportunity. Many of these people feel that their lives have come to an impasse and they are frustrated. I once met a man in the hospital (whom I did not know previously) and his statement was “Rabbi, I gave my health to accumulate wealth and now I am giving my wealth to sustain my health.” Are those years really “golden” or not?
We assume that if one treats his body properly and raises his children properly, then everything will go well for him. Yet, I don’t think I have ever met a person who can really claim this to be his case. However, Baruch Hashem I have met many people who are in their “golden years” and they are truly golden, as they are able to pursue the things they feel are important in their lives, with the vitality of people who are many years their junior. Some of these people who I know personally have much pain in their lives, but manage to push it away in order to maximize their life. In reality, I think this is true at every stage of life, just when there are less things going on, it is more readily apparent.
When it comes to Shabbos, especially in the Summer when there is a very long afternoon, I have heard grumbles from people asking, “how am I going to pass the time??” In my mind’s eye, I equate them to those expressionless people that one sees in a “retirement” home. They glare at the “idiot box” without any reaction as different images and videos of other people’s lives appear on the screen.
The key to happiness is to use the six days of creation properly to achieve the “golden day” of Shabbos, a time to pursue what is really important in life. Many people, because of their desire to deny that our whole week is supposed to be about spiritual growth, find those long Shabbos afternoons frustrating. I believe that this is why the Torah tells us about a person’s connection to his parents in the context of the commandment to keep Shabbos. One’s DNA, not only of his physical and emotional state, but also of his spiritual state, is the outcome of who his parents are. Those who cherish their parents and appreciate them, will enjoy honoring their parents just as those who yearn for spirituality will enjoy Shabbos. This may be a new reading of the above verse: Both mitzvos (parents and Shabbos) will spring us forward in our service of Hashem.