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The most challenging commandment...


Every weekend I visit my 95 year-old mother who lives in Woodmere.  She still lives in the same house where I grew up, but now with an aide who provides her with 24/7 care.  Although her mind is clouded with dementia, she still enjoys simple pleasures- sitting on her porch with family members, looking at pictures of her great-grandchildren, painting with watercolors, and especially noshing on pastries from her favorite bakery- Walls.
 My mother could eat an entire box of Walls cookies in a single sitting if we let her!  And who could blame her- they are SO delicious.  Walls has existed since I was a child.  It is legendary on Long Island (in the whole NY metropolitan area, actually), all you need to do is check Yelp to see the passion of its customers.  I remember tremendous long lines snaking out the door before the Jewish New Year with all of the locals anxiously waiting to buy their favorite honey cakes, strudels, the famous ‘Philly Fluff’ and ultra buttery rugelach. 
Most weekends, I make a stop in Walls to pick up a treat or two for my mom.  I am comforted by the fact that the interior has remained unchanged in 30 years.  Most importantly, the delicious pastries, pies, breads and cakes have remained unchanged as well.  This is probably because the bakery is still owned by the same original family.  The original owner’s son now runs the bakery, and he has maintained the business’s high standards. 
Most impressive to me, however, is not the respect the son has for the business, or the cherished recipes, but the reverence and honor the son shows for his father.  Stanley, the original owner, does not bake any more.  He is still somewhat spry at age 90, but instead of manning the back of the bakery, he now occupies a bench in the front of the store.  From this perch, he can watch the hustle and bustle of his thriving business with pride.  He can see his beloved son Marc, chatting with some of the same customers he waited on several decades earlier.  Marc has not sent his father off to idle retirement, which he wisely conjectured would not have suited his father at all.  Instead, he involves him as best he can, even in some small way, in the business.  Asking his advice, letting him rule from his roost over the events of the day, feeling useful, relevant. 
The 10 commandments are one of the most well known parts of the Judeo-Christian Bible.  If you look closely at them, you will notice that only one commandment includes an incentive- an extra bonus from God for practicing this command.  It is the command to honor one’s mother and father, the fifth commandment.  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord gives you.”   
I always wondered why of all the commandments this one is the one where we are rewarded for compliance.  Perhaps it is because as much as we love our parents, they can be challenging.  Aging parents can be time consuming; they try our patience and also expertly push our buttons.  Yet, we owe them our life, literally, so we must be reverential and respectful (note nothing here about love interestingly.  The Bible does not command us to love our parents- just to honor them.)
So, how do we honor our parents?  The Bible tells us  what to do but does not instruct us how.  I think my friend from the Walls bakery has the right answer.  Marc the baker honors his father Stanley by showing him he is still useful and relevant.  He seats him in a place of honor in the front of his beloved bakery, where he can receive the wishes of his happy customers and enjoy viewing the fruits of years of hard work.  I am sure there are days he is a burden to his son.  Days when Stanley takes up time that could better be spent on bakery-related tasks.  Yet, Marc keeps his father there as he stanchly adheres to the 5th commandment.  Stanley feels fulfilled, and Marc, as the text says, may your days be long.

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