Kedoshim- The Reward for Honoring Parents
One of the many Misvot presented in Parashat Kedoshim is "Ish Imo Ve’abiv Tira’u" – to show reverence to one’s parents (19:3), a Misva associated with the fifth of the Aseret Ha’dibrot – "Kabed Et Abicha Ve’et Imecha," to honor one’s parents (Shemot 20:12).
The Gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (31b) tells of the exceptional manner in which Abimi showed respect and reverence to his father, Rabbi Abahu. On one occasion, Rabbi Abahu asked Abimi to bring him water to drink. By the time Abimi returned with the water, Rabbi Abahu fell asleep. Abimi remained there with the cup of water until he woke up. During the time he waited, he arrived at a new insight into a certain verse in the Book of Tehillim.
Why is it significant that Abimi gained a new Torah insight as reward for his outstanding devotion to his father?
In the Aseret Ha’dibrot, the Torah writes that the reward for honoring parents is long life: "Honor your father and your mother, in order that your days be prolonged…" The explanation might be that G-d is assuring us that we will be fully compensated for the time taken to respect our parents. This Misva, particularly when a parent is aged, can be exceedingly time consuming, as the child needs to visit the parent, care for the parent’s various needs, take the parent to his or her doctor appointments, bring the parent shopping, and so on. One might feel that all this time taken to respect his parents is undermining his ability to achieve and accomplish. His efforts on his parent’s behalf, he thinks, is limiting him. G-d therefore assures us that nothing will be lost as a result of the time taken to respect our parents. We will have years added onto our lives so we can accomplish all that we seek to accomplish and are capable of accomplishing, despite allocating considerable amounts of time and effort to care for our parents as the Torah requires.
This easily explains why Abimi was rewarded by arriving at a new Torah insight. He sacrificed valuable time which he would have otherwise spent learning Torah for the sake of honoring his father, waiting at his father’s side until he woke up so he could give him his water. He therefore received special divine assistance in his understanding of Torah, such that his scholarship did not suffer at all on account of his devotion to his father.
This episode brings to mind the Gemara’s famous comment in Masechet Berachot (32b) regarding the "Hasidim Ha’rishonim" – the "pious ones" of the earlier generations. These righteous men would spend a full hour preparing for each of the three daily prayers, and then another hour in contemplation after each prayer. The Gemara raises the question of how they were able to succeed as Torah scholars, and earn a livelihood, if they sacrificed so much time each day before and after each prayer. The answer, the Gemara explains, is that they received Hashem’s special assistance in the merit of their special piety, such that they managed to master Torah and earn a living despite the time spent before and after praying. When we take out time for important Misvot such as learning and honoring parents, Hashem will ensure that nothing will be lost, that we will be no less accomplished, that the time will be returned to us.
We never lose as a result of devoting time to Misvot – we only gain.