Reverence vs. Honor

Parshat Kedoshim, Vayikra 19:3 states: “Every person should revere their mother and their father and keep My Shabbatot, I am the Lord your God.”

In Parshat Yitro, Shmot 20:12 (the Ten Commandments) we read: “Honor your father and your mother so that your days may be long upon the Land which the Lord your God gives you.”

What is the difference between reverence and honor?

The Talmud, Kiddushin 31b teaches:

Reverence means that one may not stand or sit in their parents’ place, may not contradict their parents’ words and may not offer an opinion (in a debate to which their parents are a party).

Honor means that one must give their parents food and drink, dress them and cover them, bring them in and take them out.

According to Aruch HaShulchan, the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents demands that one act in a positive manner to show respect, while the mitzvah of revering them demands that one not act in a way that detracts from their status.

The Rambam, Hichot Mamrim 6:2 states that a person must honor and revere both parents equally.

In Kiddushin 30b we see various analogies between one’s obligations to one’s parents and one’s obligations to God:

The Rabbis taught: It says in Shmot: “Honor your father and your mother” and it says in Mishlei 3:9, “Honor God with your property”. By using the same word, “honor”, scripture puts the honor due one’s father and mother on the same level as the honor due to God.

The same analogy applies to the mitzvah of revering one’s parents: It says in Vayikra, “Every person should revere their mother and their father” and it says in Dvarim 6:13, “You shall revere the Lord, your God and you shall serve Him.” By using the same word “revere” in both instances, scripture puts the reverence of one’s father and mother on the same level as reverence of God.

We learn from here just how serious the mitzvot of honoring and revering our parents are, as they are compared to honoring and revering God.