The Greatest Commandments, Part 4

(To see the latest snapshot of our work in progress, scroll to the end of this post, or click here.)

While all previous commandments have been filed under “love the Lord”, this week’s installation of the greatest commandments sees our first commandments derived from “Love your neighbor” golden commandment.

Honor the elderly

Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:32

Summarized as “honor the old and the wise”, the 11th commandment to be mapped commands us to show respect for our elders, including the specific commandment to rise in the presence of the elderly – a commandment not honored by observant Jews, Messianics, or Christians, to my knowledge.

As we store this information in each commandment, it’s worth noting this is our first commandment in which none of these groups keep this commandment in its literal form. While Christians, Messianics, and Orthodox Jews certainly honor the elderly, all these groups do not literally keep this commandment as far as I’m aware. I’m certain there are exceptions among all groups, but generally speaking, this commandment is not kept in its literal form.


(If you fine blog readers know otherwise, correct me in the comments.)

For now, I’m deeming “Honor the elderly” as deriving directly from “love neighbor as self”, though I suspect that will change as we introduce other commandments related to loving your neighbor.

Teach your children Torah

Commandment #12 really struck a chord with me and called me to action:

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:7

Impress “them”. What is “them”? The previous verse explains:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children.

I deem this commandment as deriving from “keep God’s commandments”.

Cling to God

Similar to “fearing God” commandment from last week is the commandment to cling to God:

Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.

Deuteronomy 10:20

I’m deriving this one from the “fearing God commandment”.

No adding commandments / No removing commandments

Our last commandments are from a single statement and a single verse in the Torah, Deuteronomy 12:32 (Deuteronomy 13:1 in Hebrew bibles):

See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it.

Deuteronomy 12:32

This is an excellent warning for those religious people that attempt to say that Messiah somehow changed the Torah or modified its commandments in some way. If he had, then he would be breaking the Law – sinning – and would fall under the warning against false prophets, found in the following verses.

The Big Picture

That’s it for this week, fine blog readers. Here’s the current snapshot our our ever-growing commandments hierarchy:

commandments hierarchy snapshot 4

(Click for full size)

Some Nerdly Notes

Probably not too many Messianic programmers out there, but I decided to publicly host the source code and hierarchy generation program that’s used to generate the DOT language file and in turn the image you see above. The project is now open source, hosted on CodePlex: 

You can download the source files yourself, build the project, generate the hierarchy, whatever your geeky, nerdly id desires.



  1. I remember being taught as a child by my parents to rise to my feet when an elderly person entered the room (i.e. grandparents or older aunts and uncles).

    I think there's actually an element of this that remains part of our societal courtesy codes--when someone "greater" than you (i.e. top executive of the company, the president, honored guests) enters the room, you rise. I think generally it would be considered discourteous to remain seated (on the sofa, or at the table), when an elderly person enters the room for the first time.

    Props for the move to Codeplex!

  2. BTW, my dad said he learned that first in an Asian Christian context, and only later discovered that it was in the Torah. So that applies to two categories!

  3. Hi Yahnatan,

    You're right, there is an element of this that's hung around, even in the secular world.

    I figure there are segments of religious people that honor this, but by and large, no one does this. At least, none I've encountered.

    I wonder why it has been largely lost on us in modern times, whether Messianic, observant Jewish, or Christian. Perhaps this was not the case for generations past.

  4. Great stuff, Judah.

    One comment: whether or not a few, some, or all of Orthodox Jews correctly follow it, it is Jewish halakha to show respect to the elderly, even an elder gentile:

    Halacha 9:
    We should stand before an old man of exceedingly advanced age, even if he is not a sage. Even a sage who is young is obligated to stand before an old man of exceedingly advanced age. Nevertheless, he need not rise to his full height, and need only show some token of respect.

    Even an old gentile should be addressed with words of respect, and a hand should be extended to support him, as [Leviticus 19:32] states: "Stand up before a white-haired [man]." Every white-haired man is included therein.

  5. Aaron,

    Interesting. It doesn't surprise me to see Maimonides support this: the 613 commandment list is taken from Maimonides' own listing of the commandments, and he lists the "honor the elderly" commandment as a prominent commandment at number 11.

    Do observant Jews generally rise in honor of the elderly? I haven't seen this. I wonder why we don't do this in our modern time.

  6. I think there is something wrong with what you are (trying to) doing.

    Are you trying to Judge the (Jewish) People (that is G-d's job, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and after ones Death).

    or are you trying to write down what Laws are accepted as valid and binding by the groups today and must be followed by them.

    "Do observant Jews generally rise in honor of the elderly?" I would say that observant Jews do generally rise up for the elderly.

    I think you are looking at observant Jews from very far away and you are judging them with the little knowledge you have about them.

  7. Hi JG,
    As coming from a Christian perspective, I am getting so much out of this discussion. I see nothing judgemental in looking to see what we are practicing and what we are generally (as groups of people) not practicing. I have not been taught to rise for the elderly, before seeing this discussion, its good to know. Good stuff JG.

  8. Judah,

    "Do observant Jews generally rise in honor of the elderly?"

    For Rabbis, observant Jews certainly do show much respect.

    Also, I have experienced first hand in Israel on the buses fellow observant youth rise for even non-religious elderly and give them their seats when the bus is full. I thought this was great and started doing it as well on a crowded bus. Comically, one time I did so and the deep, guttural-voiced Israeli man yelled at me "Shev, shev!!!" (Sit, sit!!!) to which I replied "Lo, lo, lo, shev, shev. =)" (No translation necessary).

    So I do know the elderly are given respect in Israel among Jews, generally speaking.

    Also, Rambam/Maimonides isn't really writing his own halakha, he actually instead listed every commandment and put them in order and then summed up the entire Talmudic halakha (halakha from the pre-existing supreme Sanhedrins up to the early CE centuries) for each command.

  9. Wow, just in time for the days of awe, Judah helps me see another area in which I need to follow God more closely.

    Thank you for highlighting the command to rise in the presence of the elderly and show respect. I am going to try and implement it. I'm getting kind of old myself at 41 (almost 42). As my black hair is now 50% gray, I wonder if anyone will start rising in my presence.

    Derek Leman

  10. Derek,

    If I ever meet you in person, I'll be sure to rise. Just to make you feel old. ;-)

  11. Small correction: the "honor the elderly" commandment is #23 on Maimonides' list, not #11.