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Every man shall fear his mother and father and you shall observe my Shabbosim (Vayikra 19:3).
It is noteworthy that the posuk here mentions Shabbos in the plural. Elsewhere, the Torah mentions the mitzvah of Shabbos in the singular. For example, in both sets of the Ten Commandments, Shabbos is mentioned in the singular. We may thus ask what is the Torah attempting to convey by changing from its usual style in mentioning Shabbos in the plural.
To answer to this question let us note that here the mitzvah of Shabbos immediately follows the mitzvah of fearing ones parents. Chazal elaborate on this and explain that the Torah is teaching us that the mitzvah of honoring ones parents does not override the commandments of the Torah. One is not allowed to follow the instructions of ones parents when they are in conflict with the Torah. The Torah singles out Shabbos to serve as an example because all the commandments of the Torah are compared to it.
Alternatively, The Reisah Rav, Hagoen Rav Aaron Levine ztl homiletically suggests that the mention of Shabbos here is not a commandment but rather a reward. The Torah states that if one fears his parents he will be rewarded with the opportunity to observe many Shabbosim. This reward is consistent with the reward the Torah grants for honoring ones parents. The Torah states that one who honors his parents will be blessed with longevity (Shemos 20:12). Likewise, here the Torah declares that one who fears his parents will be blessed with the observance of many Shabbosim, which can only result with the gift of time.
Let us note the contrast between the reward for honoring ones parents and the reward for fearing ones parents. The reward for honoring ones parents is longevity in its simplest form, whereas with regard to fearing ones parents the Torah grants longevity in the form of Shabbos observance. What is the significance of this difference?
The commentators explain that the reason why the Torah rewards one with longevity for honoring ones parents is because generally this mitzvah requires one to give up time. The difficulty of honoring ones parents is that one must sacrifice time that he would spend otherwise for himself. To reward the sacrificing of time, the Torah guarantees that this individual will be more than compensated.
It may be suggested that the expression of fear stands at a higher level than the expression of honor. Honor is manifested by actions and does not necessarily express the true feeling of the individual. Fear however, is an emotion that relates to a persons inner feelings and not his actions.
When the Torah grants an individual longevity it does not mention the quality of his time. It goes without saying that any amount of time in this world is a blessing regardless its quality. Chazal teach us that one moment in this world of Torah and good deeds is better than all the bliss of the world to come. Nonetheless, the time in this world may be difficult. A person may merit to live a long life yet may suffer during that period. When an individual sacrifices his time to honor his parents he is rewarded with time. However, just as an expression of honor does not reveal the inner feelings of the individual, likewise the reward of time does not include a guarantee as to its quality. However, one who also fears his parents is granted longevity that includes the observance of many Shabbosim. Shabbos is a time of rest, a time of enjoyment. Chazal teach us that on Shabbos we are to feel as if we have accomplished all that we have set out to do. Homiletically, the Torah informs us that one who fears his parents is not just granted longevity but longevity of quality, years of fulfillment and satisfaction.
© Efraim Levine 5761/2001