AS: Why did you and Rabbi Wallerstein decide to take on the topic of kibbud av va’eim for your newest collaboration?
RSF: Three years ago, Rabbi Wallerstein contacted me. He said that in his dealings with scores of teenage boys and girls, he found that many were simply unaware both of the centrality of kibbud av va’eim in Jewish life and of many of the halachos of this mitzvah. We had already collaborated on Let There Be Rain, our book on hakaras hatov, which, baruch Hashem, was very well received, so he wanted to do a similar book on kibbud av va’eim.
AS: Why did you choose the format of daily readings?
RSF: The two-page spread lesson-a-day format makes it possible for the reader to read a complete concept each day, along with a story, in five minutes or less. People find that by reading about a mitzvah daily, they maintain a subconscious awareness regarding that mitzvah. In this case, it reminds them to seek opportunities to honor their parents and to interact with them in the right way.
AS: You offer us many stories to illustrate the importance of kibbud av va’eim. What is one story that made a deep impression on you?
RSF: Rabbi Wallerstein’s father, a”h was vacationing in Florida, while his mother, Rabbi Wallerstein’s grandmother, was going to leave for Eretz Yisrael from Kennedy Airport in New York. Mr. Wallerstein flew in from Florida, met his mother in the airport, requested her berachah (as he did every Friday), bade her farewell, then immediately got on a plane and headed back to Florida. He took a round-trip flight just to see his mother for a few minutes and wish her well.
AS: Briefly — why is kibbud av va’eim so hard? And why is it so vital?
RSF: Talmud Yerushalmi says that kibbud av va’eim is one of the most difficult and most serious mitzvos. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l writes that one reason it’s so difficult is because of our closeness and familiarity with our parents. Because we feel so close to them, we are liable to treat them like friends, and that can lead to unintentional disrespect. Kibbud av va’eim is one of the most important mitzvos because our relationship with our parents is intertwined with our relationship with Hashem. And our connection to Torah and mesorah all the way back to Matan Torah is primarily through our parents.