The Misva of Kibud Ab Va’em – respecting one’s father and mother – is one of the 613 Biblical commands, and, of course, was included in the Ten Commandments which G-d pronounced at Mount Sinai, attesting to its special stature of importance.
Unlike with most other Misvot, the Torah tells us the great reward which one earns for fulfilling this commandment: "Lema’an Ya’arichun Yamecha" – long life. In fact, the first Mishna in Masechet Pe’a famously teaches that the rewards for respecting one’s parents are given both in this world and the next; one benefits from the merit of this Misva in our world, while the "principal" remains intact for the next world.
The Midrash teaches that when the gentile nations heard the first several of the Ten Commandments – the pronouncement of "Anochi Hashem Elokecha" ("I am Hashem your G-d") and the prohibition of "Lo Yiheyeh Lecha Elohim Aherim" ("You shall have no other deities") – they assumed that G-d was issuing these commands for His own honor and glory. But then they heard that G-d also commanded Beneh Yisrael to respect their parents, and they thus realized that G-d was not issuing commands for His own honor, as He was sharing His honor with parents. Moreover, the Gemara comments – and the Rambam cites this passage – that the Torah equated the honor that we must give our parents with the honor we must give the Almighty. The Aruch Ha’shulhan (Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein of Nevarduk, 1829-1908) explains that when it comes to honoring G-d, the verse (Mishleh 3:9) instructs, "Kabed Et Hashem Me’honecha" – "Honor G-d from your wealth," implying that one must show Hashem honor only within the limits of his means. But when it comes to honoring parents, the Torah commands simply, "Kabed Et Abicha Ve’et Imecha" – "Honor your father and your mother," without any limit or restriction, indicating that the respect we must give our parents exceeds that which we must give Hashem.
Another expression of the unique importance of this Misva is found in the Shulhan Aruch, which introduces the laws of honoring parents by emphasizing that one must be extremely careful about his Misva, and ensure to fulfill it properly.
Given the special importance of honoring parents, it is vital for us to study and become proficient in the Halachot pertaining to this command. The Hazon Ish (Rav Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, 1878-1953) remarked that just as one is obligated to study the Halachot relevant to each holiday before and during the holiday, likewise, students living in Yeshiva dormitories must study the laws of honoring parents before they return home for vacation. As they will soon be back with their parents, and thus be required to show their parents respect, they must prepare by reviewing the Halachot of Kibbud Ab Va’em – just as we must all review the Halachot of every Yom Tob before the Yom Tob. And certainly during their vacation, while living at home, they must study the Halachot, just as we must study the Halachot of each Yom Tob during the Yom Tob.
It follows, then, that those of us who live near our parents all year round must regularly review the Halachot of Kibbud Ab Va’em, so that we know precisely what is permissible and what is forbidden in the context of our relationship with our parents. As this is an especially important Misva, and one which, for many of us, is directly relevant each and every day, it is vital for us to become familiar with the detailed Halachot governing the way we speak to and acts towards our parents.