Parshat Yitro tells of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. The commandments were written on two tablets, but there was a distinct difference: The first tablet contained mitzvot between people and God – e.g., “Believe in God,” “Don’t worship other gods,” “Don’t take God’s Name in vain.” The second tablet contained mitzvot between people and people – e.g., “Don’t steal” and “Don’t murder.”
One of the Ten Commandments is to “Honor Your Parents.” We would expect this to appear on the second tablet, along with the other mitzvot between people and people. But it doesn’t. Honoring parents appears on the first tablet. Why?
The reason is that the parent-child relationship is a metaphor for the human relationship to God. From the moment of infancy, the way a parent acts toward their child, forms in the child’s consciousness a paradigm for how God relates to us.
Therefore the primary role of a parent is to communicate to the child that he is loved and cherished … unique and special … cared for and protected. For that is how God cares about each one of us.
I once heard the story of a father who set his young son up on a ledge, and told him to jump. “I’ll catch you,” said the father. So the boy jumped – but the father stepped back, letting the child fall to the ground. As the boy looked up with tears in his eyes, the father said: “I wanted to teach you an important lesson: That you can never trust anyone!”
This is the exact opposite of what the Torah wants us to teach our children. Above all, a parent must give the child a deep sense of security, and implant the subconscious knowledge that with God, you are never alone.