Last week’s stretch of the week was: Think of a friend who is going through a particularly challenging life situation. Make an extra effort to reach out to him/her and do something specific to help.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
What is kavod? Kavod is literally translated as honor. Therefore, people automatically associate kavod with something negative since they are familiar with Chazal’s bidding to run away from honor. However, in reality the concept of kavod encompasses so much more. We are better off translating kavod as respect, because kavod is much more about the internal makings of a person than his social status. We must have kavod for ourselves; we must have it for others.
The world we live in is losing its sense of kavod more and more each day. All barriers of respect and dignity have fallen by the wayside. Not that long ago, it was commonplace for one to give up his seat on a train for someone older. Now? It is highly unusual to sight a witness. Honoring one’s parents and grandparents? Whom are you kidding?
On the brighter side, this foretells that we are living in the times close to the arrival of Mashiach. Chazal tell us (Sota 49b) that in the days preceding Mashiach chutzpa will be rampant; the young will shame the old; elders will get up for the children; a son will disgrace his father; a daughter will rebel against her mother…
This decrease in outward kavod is indicative of a much bigger problem than the individual misdeeds being performed. It is a symptom of a sickness which has far greater casualties than we may realize. If we have lost respect for those around us, then we apparently have lost our own sense of self-respect. If those around us are not important enough to be treated with dignity, how much greater can we perceive ourselves?
We have lost the most precious and vital ingredient to our spiritual and physical survival: kavod of self. How much pride and kavod can one possible derive from his physical existence? Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim (30:13), “So that my soul (chavod) will sing to You and not be silent.” Dovid refers to his soul as his chavod, his honor. The greatest pride one can experience is in the elevation and success of his soul, for that is who he really is, a spiritual being.
If only we begin to heighten our sense of kavod for ourselves and those around us, we will see incredible changes in our lives. We will be able to accomplish so much more both for ourselves and others.
(Reproduced from Run After the Right Kavod by Rabbi Moshe Don Kestenbaum, with permission of the author and copyright holders, Israel Bookshop Publications).
Story: (based on a true story)
“Go to your room right now! I can’t have you spilling anything else in here.”
Sarah barked an “I hate when you say that!” at me and went scurrying up the stairs with teary eyes, but I couldn’t deal with that at the moment. She had too much nervous energy for me to have her around while I cleaned up the bottle of orange juice she’d inevitably knocked over. I knew she was sorry, but it happened too often. It’s not like anyone bothered to respect me and treat me in a way that didn’t make me want to cry, right?
Just last night my married son had called to tell me that he and his wife and baby would be coming the second days of Succos instead of the first as we’d arranged, because of a family birthday on my daughter-in-law’s side. Not asked, but told, with less than a week’s notice. As I mopped, I called my friend Elana, to kvetch.
“I am so tired of this,” I told her as I shoved the mop across the floor. “My kids don’t seem to care how what they do affects anyone else. And neither does anyone else! Every day I wait for fifteen minutes on the line for the highway exit ramp and just as I get near the front, four cars zoom in from the next lane and cut me off. I’m the bad guy if I don’t let them in. I get to work and it’s, ‘Where have you been?’, not a nicer, ‘How bad was your commute?’” Rant finished, Elana and I sighed and settled on the conclusion that our lot in life was to get stepped on, and the goal was “to keep on trucking”.
Upstairs, I heard Sarah sniffling and muttering in her room. I began scolding myself for yelling at her and sending her away so I could talk to a friend while I wallowed in self-pity. Why didn’t I take a deep breath and have her help clean up? That would have actually taught her something without destroying her self-esteem. I felt like such a rotten mother.
The front door slammed, and I soon found my high-school aged daughter Miriam bent over the open fridge. I heard the words “Hi Mom. Where’s the OJ?” and I was out the door, with vague mumblings that I would buy some for her but she was in charge until I got back. As I drove to the supermarket all I could think was, “At least she said ‘Hi’.”
Ten minutes later I got to the checkout area with two bottles of orange juice and a new mop head in my basket. All the lines were full, so I settled into my wait with another sigh when I heard a quiet, “Excuse me?” from the woman in front of me. “If that’s all you have,” she said, “please go ahead of me. You look like you’ve had a long day.” I scooted around her overflowing cart gratefully, a vague positive feeling beginning to take shape inside my belly. I put as much of it as possible into my “Thank you,” though I think she might have thought I was a little crazy for being so grateful. But I had to be. Someone had shown me consideration. And then the woman checking out in front of me spoke up.
“Hi! Mrs. Berman, right? Your son Jacob is in my Dani’s class. You were the one who helped chaperone that trip last year when the school was begging for parents or they would have had to cancel. I was so thankful!”
I had only a vague idea who this was, but I was certainly glad to hear from her. I asked for her name, and as I helped her empty the rest of her cart she asked me for tips about how I juggled all my kids and my job and still managed to get so much done for the school and my family. As the clerk scanned the groceries I felt a sense of pride growing within me to join the new positivity. I worked hard. I did what I could for my family and my community. This woman noticed and respected me for it.
I arrived at home a very different person than when I had left. Having nurtured the respected and positive feelings within me as I drove home instead of tamping them down with negative thoughts, I smiled at Miriam as I gave her the juice and asked her calmly and respectfully to please take out the full trash bag later instead of scolding her for not having taken it out yet.
Had I scolded her, she would have huffed out of the room with a muttered, “Fine” and probably forgotten or refused to do it. Instead, within five minutes she had taken it out, as well as cleared up her own glass. I marveled at how speaking with respect had actually made less housework for me, in addition to a happier child. So my next stop was Sarah. Talking calmly and apologizing for yelling helped. I knew I would actually have to do things more effectively next time to truly show that I respect her as a person who does not deserve to simply be yelled at and temporarily gotten rid of. With my store complimenter’s words in my head, I told myself, “You are a good parent”, and believed that I could handle things differently next time and resolved to do so.
I can’t rely on receiving daily favors and compliments to boost my self-image and give me the positive feelings and encouragement to treat others well. It certainly helps, but the world around me isn’t built like that, and, regardless, the core of it has got to come from me. I need to truly respect myself, to believe that I deserve and need respect for what I do, for who I am, and because HaShem made me and believes in me.
And, I need to respect others because they too are all HaShem’s creations with specific jobs to do. Since I know how much receiving respect helps me, I must freely give it to others. As a bonus, my giving respect will help my life move more smoothly and will help me to feel better about myself. In turn, it will help me in my goal to treat others better, which helps them to treat others better. It’s a big circle of respect, and I want to be a part of it.
Discussion Question Options:
Why does each of us deserve respect? How can we get it?
What effect does feeling respected have on a person?
How does how we treat others affect how we are treated? How does how we are treated affect how we treat others?
Stretch of the Week:
Speak to someone respectfully even if it is hard to do. Then respect yourself for doing so.