Next, Rivkah took `Esav her older son's best clothes, which she had with her in the house, ... (Gen 27:15)
Both in Hebrew and in English, the text uses a particular word that describes the kind of clothes Esau wore. In English it says, 'best clothes', in Hebrew 'החמדת'.
This indicated to the sages of the midrash that Esau always used his best attire when serving his father. Some translations use the word, 'best', choicest', 'beautiful' as an English rendition of this word. The Sages of Israel describe Esau's garments as: THE COVETED ONES.
We must remember that Esau was Abraham's grandson, and that Nimrod had actually tried to kill Abraham. The Midrash states that Esau's coveted garments were the ones he seized from Nimrod after having killed him. Esau wore these garments, his "best", whenever he served his father.
We are not used to speak of Esau in favorable terms, but Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel said, "I served my father my entire life, but did not reach even one percent of the level of honor with which Esau served his father. I wore soiled garments when I served my father and wore clean garments when I went outside. When Esau served his father he only word regal garments. he felt that it was improper to attend his father wearing any attire other than his best."
What can we learn from that?
Our modern society has lost much of its social ethics of respect. As such, most of us act like Rabbi Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel. We have a casual familiar relationship with our parents. I heard it said that 'Familiarity breeds contempt'. I said most of us because I actually got to know some people from a Swiss aristocratic family where till this day, people get dressed in their best, or at least clean clothes when they come to the dinner table with the rest of the family.
As a European, in my childhood I also learned that whether we have guests or not, we change clothes for 'Kabalat Shabbat/the receiving of the Shabbat' on Friday night. We take a bath, wear a white shirt, and clean pants in honor of receiving the Shabbat as a guest in our home. We often have guests on Friday night, but whether we do or not, even if it is just with my wife, till this day I still wash and change clothes before officiating the Kiddush, before entering in a more intimate relationship with the 'Father'.
Twice the Torah reminds us to love, honor, and respect our parents. There are no "ifs" or "buts" added to HaShem's instructions about this.
As parents, we expect our children to love, honor, and respect us, but how can they when very often they hear us, their own parents, publicly rail, disrespect, mock, and criticize our own parents. As parents ourselves, we need to model the attitude we expect from our children. The sad reality of raising children is that no matter how much we try to inculcate good manners into them, they stubbornly insist on emulating our bad example.
The Master was very clear about the priorities we owe to our parents. He considered those who get on the 'parent-bashing' band-wagon as people who honor the traditions of man above the commandments of God. Despite our contemporary modern Western culture which seems to glorify those who challenge, disrespect, and disobey their parents, or even have a casual attitude toward them, He said,
... "you have made a fine art of departing from God's command in order to keep your tradition! For Moshe said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say, 'If someone says to his father or mother, "I have promised as a korban" ' " (that is, as a gift to God) " ' "what I might have used to help you," ' then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus, with your tradition which you had handed down to you, you nullify the Word of God! And you do other things like this." (Mar 7:9-13 CJB)
In the text of the Torah, the word 'honor' as in 'honor your parents' refers to children's obligation to financially support their parents in their old age. Paul used this word in that very same manner when he said that Torah-teachers are worthy of double-honor (1 Tim 5:17). Here is the context of the Master's statement: Religious authorities had decreed that whenever someone gave money or goods to the Temple, he was excused from the responsibility of financially helping his parents. His donation served as some sort of a "tax-break" from his Torah responsibilities to his parents.
Needless to say, Yeshua thought this decree preposterous and didn't mince His words when expressing His opinions about it. The lesson of the event is that even religious duties and serving God do not hold priority over the love, honor, and respect we ought to our parents, as the Torah commands us to do.
Last but not least, to illustrate my point on the relationship we ought to have with our parents, I want to propose the following statements from the Master. First he deals with the matter of criticizing others:
'But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgment; that whoever calls his brother, 'You good-for-nothing!' will be brought before the Sanhedrin; that whoever says, 'Fool!' incurs the penalty of burning in the fire of Gei-Hinnom!' (Mat 5:22 CJB)
'So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift. If someone sues you, come to terms with him quickly, while you and he are on the way to court; or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer of the court, and you may be thrown in jail! Yes indeed! I tell you, you will certainly not get out until you have paid the last penny.' (Mat 5:22-26 CJB)
In these teachings, our Master instructs us that the priorities of peaceful relationship with others are far above those of our ritual services to HaShem. Therefore:
IF IT IS SO CONCERNING MERE STRANGERS,
OR EVEN BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
HOW MUCH MORE TRUE SHOULD IT BE
TOWARDS OUR PARENTS.
People often have negative feelings towards their parents. They often do just because they don't like them, or because they still hold a rebellious grudge against the disciplinary hand that they probably sorely needed. So in essence, the judgment one has against his own parents is rather arbitrary and not necessarily bathed in objective truth.
I myself was basically abandoned by my mother at a very young age and was raised in a boarding school. I do therefore acknowledge the possible situation that sometimes parents do not act worthy of their title. Even in this case though, this advice still applies. We may have our issue, but it does not give us the right to pollute the sound waves around us with negativity. We have much better and useful things to talk about!