But to return to the matter of honoring your mother. I think it is significant that the Fifth Commandment falls between those that have to do with proper worship of God and those that have to do with right conduct toward other people. I have always wondered if the Commandments should be read as occurring in order of importance. If that is correct, honoring your mother is more important than not committing murder. That seems remarkable, though I am open to the idea.
Or they may be thought of as different kinds of law, not comparable in terms of their importance, and honoring your mother might be the last in the sequence relating to right worship rather than the first in the sequence relating to right conduct. I believe this is a very defensible view.
…It seems to me almost a retelling of Creation—First there is the Lord, then the Word, then the Day, then the Man and Women—and after that Cain and Able—Thou shalt not kill—and all the sins recorded in those prohibitions, just as crimes are recorded in the laws against them. So perhaps the tablets differ as addressing the eternal and the temporal.
What the reading yields is the idea of father and mother as the Universal Father and Mother, the Lord’s dear Adam and His beloved Eve; that is, essential humankind as it came from His hand. There’s a pattern in these Commandments of setting things apart so that their holiness will be precieved. Every day is holy, but the Sabbath is set apart so that the holiness of time can be experienced. Every human being is worthy of honor, but the conscious discipline of honor is learned from this setting apart of the mother and father, who usually labor and are heavy-laden, and may be cranky or stinky or ignorant or overbearing. …At the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object. In the particular instance of your mother, I know if you are attentive to her in this way, you will find a very great loveliness in her. When you love someone to that degree that you love her, you see her as God sees her, and that is an instruction in the nature of God and humankind and of Being itself. That is why the Fifth Commandmemt belongs on the first tablet. I have persuaded myself of it.
From Gilead my Marilynne Robinson.