37 -Situations - Who Is Honored? One Who Honors Others

Only a person who treats others respectfully is in turn treated the same way.


We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create

z’chuyos for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.


Last week’s stretch of the week was:  Write down two things about someone in your life for which you are grateful.  If possible, tell that person at least one of the things for which you are grateful.

Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute. 


 Lesson #37


Who Is Honored?  One Who Honors Others

איזהו מכבד, המכבד את הבריות

Aizehu M'chubad, HaM'chabed Es HaB'ryos

Perek Daled, Mishna Aleph Part 4

Story:  (based on a true story)

I was having lunch at my new friend and coworker Kayla’s house on a rare day off for the both of us.  The public school we both worked at was off, but our older kids were in school, so I bundled up my baby and went off to a “mommy” play date.

Kayla had kept Serena, her babysitter and housekeeper, for the day, and Serena was in and out of the dining room as we ate.  She brought Kayla her baby from upstairs, ran downstairs to do the laundry, and cleaned up after us.  Throughout the whole hour and a half, I don’t think Kayla spoke to her except to give her an order.  Even when Serena brought the baby, Kayla said, “Hi my little baby!  Serena, the upstairs bathroom needs to be re-cleaned.”

I was amazed.  I remembered how excited Kayla was three months ago about finding a Jewish babysitter when she hired Serena.  She had been without help for weeks and went on and on about what a lovely person Serena was, and now Serena worked around her and she didn’t thank her or say please or say goodbye when she eventually left shortly after we finished eating.

I asked Kayla how she was enjoying her help, and she mentioned that Serena was good in general but had been slacking off lately.  She talked about how she had gone through four housekeepers in the last six months because they either stopped showing up or stopped working well.  I tentatively mentioned that Kayla had barely spoken to Serena and she said, “Oh.  I hadn’t noticed.  Maybe you’re right.”

I was amazed.  I don’t have every-day help, but I do have a cleaning woman in twice a week.  I try to greet her as she comes in and say goodbye as she leaves, and I ask her if she wants a drink or a snack.  After hearing a shiur about having kavod for all people, I focused on the fact that if Margarita had to take off when her kids were home, then she is a mother just like me, and I began occasionally asking her about her family.  She would answer quickly but with a smile and a “Thank you, Miss.”

I politely ask Margarita to do the tasks I need, and she knows that I’m her employer and works hard.  I now realized that she might do nice work for me partly because I am respectful toward her.  And, maybe Kayla can’t keep a housekeeper because there isn’t mutual respect.  If someone doesn’t treat you like a person, you aren’t going to respect or want to help them.  I shudder to think of what Serena says to her family about her job when she goes home.

I don’t think Kayla is a bad person.  I think she is a busy, usually tired mother who pays good money for help and has generally relegated its provider to the background.  We all do this to some extent, but I think the effort to remain polite, grateful and to show respect for the people who provide us with a service is important. 

I am now also working on remembering to respect the time of the secretaries at both the school I work at and the school I send my kids to, and to ask about their families when I can.  And, I have lately begun to thank the custodians and the garbage men when they take my trash.  My kids think it’s hilarious to hear their mother calling out to the garbage truck, but I recently heard my son offer one of our extra scarves to the men hanging onto the recycling truck, and my daughter thanked the receptionist at her school for her late note and apologized for pulling her off the phone.

I don’t know Kayla well enough to talk to her about this.  If I tell her everything I do for Margarita, it will sound self-righteous, and that’s not how I feel.  I think I’ll invite Kayla over some time when Margarita is in, because I think all Kayla really needs to be more respectful to her help is to think about it.  I don’t know if it will help, but I can try. 

Pirkay Avos:

"בן זומא אומר:  ...איזהו מכבד, המכבד אתהבריות..."

"Ben Zoma omer:  ...Aizehu m'chubad, ham'chabed es hab'ryos, she'ne’emar, ‘Ki m'habdi achabed... ."

"Ben Zoma says:  ...Who is honored?  He who honors others, as it is said (Sh'muel Alef 1:30), "For those who honor Me I will honor..." (Perek Daled, Mishna Alef).

The typical honor accorded to a prominent person is illusory.  People do not genuinely admire such a person but rather the power he represents.  Only a person who treats others respectfully is in turn treated the same way.  A person who has a kind word for every individual and sees the good in everyone may not attain the outer trappings of success.  Nevertheless, people respond warmly to him and hold acquaintance dear.

R’ Ovadia of Bartenura states that even people who are truly wise, mighty and wealthy-of whom the mishna initially spoke-do not necessarily attain or even deserve respect, for they may fall prey to pride and come to expect universal obeisance.  Only a person who esteems others will receive respect and appreciation in turn. 

It seems somewhat surprising that we prove the significance of honoring people by citing a pasuk that speaks about honoring HaShem.  Perhaps, by citing “For those who honor me I will honor,” the mishna is stating the underlying reason for honoring people-we do so because they are HaShem’s creations. 

The relationship between honoring HaShem and honoring people is reflected in the b'racha recited upon seeing a monarch:  “She’chalak mi’k'vodo l’basar vadom”, who has apportioned of His glory to a mortal.  While we are paying our respects to a mortal, we recognize that we are in fact giving praise and honor to HaShem. 

One of the most important ramifications of this definition of honor is that we should pay little attention to the nature of the individual being honored.  Everyone was created by HaShem and thus deserves our respect.  Whereas the mishna previously spoke of wisdom, wealth and strength, we now focus on the individual who lacks all these virtues.  Despite being poor, unintelligent and weak, this individual eminently deserves to be honored simply by virtue of being created by HaShem.

(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

Discussion Question Options:

In what situations might we be lax in providing proper respect to another?  What are some of the dangers of this?

How do you view people who respect others in general versus those who are more lax or selective?

What practical steps can we take to help ourselves provide respect to all those around us?

Stretch of the Week:

Interact respectfully with a person you might otherwise take for granted.


Stretch Of The Week