“And you shall keep my statutes and do them; I am Hashem who sanctifies you. For any man who curses his father and mother shall be put to death, for cursing his father and mother he shall be stoned.” (Vayikra 20:8-9)
In Parashat Kedoshim we have a section dealing with penalties for many grave transgressions. Some way into the section, the Torah precedes the sin of cursing one’s parents with a general instruction to keep the Torah’s laws. Why interject with a general warning at this point? Furthermore, the literal translation of the second Passuk seems difficult, “For any man who curses”, as if cursing is a reason for the general instruction of keeping His statutes. Why is one dependant on the other?
The Netziv explains that a person’s youth is the most formative period of one’s life, when efforts to learn Torah and keep Mitzvot have a profound and lasting effect on a person. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot compares a child’s learning to writing on a fresh canvas, which is clear, easy to read and doesn’t fade. However the Yetzer Harah works extra hard during these years to discourage and distance him from using his time properly and making good decisions-hoping to limit the impact and do as much damage as possible. The single greatest support a child has to overcome his distractions and bad influences are his parents who are charged with encouraging, guiding and teaching their children, to counteract the Yetzer Harah and help the youth realise his potential.
The Torah therefore warns that one must make every effort to keep Torah and instil in oneself commitment to Hashem. It follows that respecting one’s father and mother allows one to be influenced for good and guided on the right path. Treating parents’ advice and guidance without appropriate veneration, disrespecting and worse cursing them undermines every effort made to serve Hashem and keep his Mitzvot. May Hashem help us seek and follow guidance and save us from bad influences so we become more holy-as the Passuk finishes off, for I am Hashem who sanctifies you!