For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.'
The Sacred Texts tell us that after the Great Flood, Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father's nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers (Genesis 9:21-25).
What Ham did was very serious. Many have speculated as to the actions that caused Noah to curse his grand-son for the sake of his son’s actions, but the Text tells us exactly what happened and if it does, why speculate?
What the Text tells us about Ham is that he saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. When Ham saw his father in a vulnerable disgraceful position, he went and publicized it. His brothers to the contrary, going in and out of the tent respectfully, covered the shame of their father with a blanket of discretion.
Today’s lack of high reverence and respect towards parents and elders is not seen as a very serious sin. That’s why we feel the need to find something else that is not in the Text to justify Noah’s judgment of Ham. But according to Biblical standards, honoring parents is what caused longevity and prosperity in the Land. The idea was to also care for them in their old age as they cared for us in our young age. That meant that they needed to live close to each other, not miles apart.
As young children we adore our parents like gods, but as we grow older, we become critical of them and see their faults. Should we then go and gossip about them to others publicizing their faults? Or should we respect them by doing what love does, which is to 'cover a multitude of sin (Proverbs 10:12)'? We wonder today at our kids' attitudes towards us, but are they emulating our very own attitudes towards our parents? How do we talk about or treat their grand-parents in front of them? This is a commandment without when, if, and buts; ‘only if my parents are respectable and honorable’. We are not asked to obey them, only to respect and honor them, as well as care for them in their old age.
A very important blessing that influenced all of history until today ensued from Shem and Japheth’s discreet and respectful actions action. God said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant (Genesis 9:26-27)." Indeed, the way we treat and honor our earthly parents is a hint about our relationship with our heavenly Father.