We are stretching in ahavas yisrael together to create z’chusim for K’lal Yisrael in these urgent times.
Last week’s stretch of the week was: Show an extra gesture of respect to someone to whom you otherwise wouldn’t.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Taking A Deeper Look - Lesson #18
כבוד - KA’VODE--HONOR
PART 3 – RESPECT VS. CHUTZPA: Leading by Example
“Chutzpa is hardly a new phenomenon, but it has never before reached its present intensity. This should not come as a complete surprise. The Talmud predicted that before the final redemption, ‘Chutzpa will increase… the young will humiliate the elders, a son will insult his father and a daughter will rise up against her mother (Sotah 49b)’.
Given the increased prevalence of parental defiance, we should be on the alert for every opportunity to demonstrate to our children that we are obedient to authority even when it goes against our will. It is not uncommon to look for loopholes, both in halacha and in civil law. If we seek ways in which to circumvent authority, we should realize that our children may do likewise. The yetzer hara will do everything in its power to minimize your deference to authority. This makes it so much easier for the yetzer hara to cause your children to be disobedient and defiant.
In addition to deference to authority, the Torah demands that every person be shown respect. The Midrash quotes God as saying, ‘My dear children! Is there anything I lack that I must ask it of you? All I do ask of you is that you should love one another and respect one another’ (Tanna D’Vei Eliyahu Rabbah 28). The Rambam writes, “Do not minimize the importance of respect for others. The Sages have permitted some of their restrictive regulations to be set aside to avoid an affront to others’ dignity” (Sanhedrin 24b).
Chutzpa is not an inborn trait. Children learn it from somewhere, to some degree from their friends, but their prime models are their parents. If the home environment is totally free of chutzpa and is one in which the parents show great respect for each other and for everyone, young and old, this can outweigh the negative influence of the chutzpa that they may observe outside the home.”
Unfortunately, years of watching parents and communities show a lack of respect both for authority, including rabbeim and teachers, and for other communities of Jews can and has caused many children to lose respect both for their parents and for the Jewish community in which they were raised. They notice that the values they are taught don’t correspond with the actions of those who teach them.
Even if we don’t feel disrespect for our fellow Jews, children will take their cues from our actions and inactions. We must go out of our way to display respectful actions toward authority and toward all Jews, with our children watching. When we do so, we fulfill HaShem’s will by honoring His creations, increase the respect others have for us, and build the next generation into a stronger, more unified nation that is better equipped to serve Him.
(Quoted sections from The Enemy Within, by Rabbi Abraham Twerski.)
Story: (based on a true story)
“Ma, are we allowed to park here?”
“It’s fine, Chani. It’s just for a minute.”
“But it says only administration can park here.”
“It’s OK just for a second.”
“But what if someone needs it?”
“Chani. There’s nowhere else to park in the lot or for three blocks. I’ll walk you into school, you’ll get your late note, and I’ll leave. For the few minutes, they’ll deal.”
“But it says-”
“Chani! Out of the car.”
Chani quickly unbuckles and clambers out dragging her backpack behind her, a nervous look on her face. I ignore it as I unbuckle my baby, pulling her snowsuit covered squirming body out of the car. I hitch her onto my hip, deciding not to pull out the stroller from the trunk. After all, I’m parked so close, and it’s such a quick stop. It took so long at the dentist and I still have so much to do at home before my three-year-old gets back from playgroup.
Dropping Chani off ends up taking twenty minutes. There’s a line waiting for the secretary, and when it’s finally my turn, I am reminded of a form I need to fill out. I decide to fill it out right then and there. I put the baby down. She begins to wander around the office, pulling at papers and drawer handles. “I’m almost done,” I say to the secretary as an apology, vaguely grabbing for the baby with my left hand. I see that Chani’s already got her, having not left for class yet to keep the baby from causing problems.
As I finish up and sign the form, I hear the door open behind me followed by a familiar, hurried sounding voice.
“Hello! Sorry I’m a little late. I was here by nine but all the spots were taken and I had to park three blocks away. Did they hold the meeting for me?” It’s Mrs. Bloom, the assistant principal. I believe she would qualify as administration.
The secretary tells Mrs. Bloom that the meeting has started, and she quickly turns toward the conference room. Then she stops for a moment as she sees my two girls hovering in a corner.
“Hello Chani!,” she greets my daughter. “Is this your baby sister?”
Chani is silent, withholding her traditional effusive greeting. She nods her head, and then turns to look at me with a question on her face. I thinly smile at her, barely say hello to Mrs. Bloom, and grab the baby quickly, sending Chani off to class. In an instant, we are all on our way.
My baby seems heavier as I walk to the prime parking spot, so close to the door. I had been so glad to get it, to save myself the inevitable trek. Now the gain has turned into too many losses. I caused someone a problem at work. I let my baby cause damage. I broke a known, written rule in front of my daughter. I taught her that it’s OK not to listen to the authority figures as long as you’re quick and it’s for your convenience. And, I ran away from the whole thing.
It all boils down to me thinking I knew better, and that I am better. It was a lack of respect. As I start the car, I understand that the twisting feeling I have inside stems from the conflict between my actions and what I always thought I believed. If I feel like I can’t pass Mrs. Bloom in the store or at a kiddush without looking away, and, if I now feel like a hypocrite telling my kids to follow rules because their parents made those rules, something is wrong. I need to do something, not just to be better in the future, but to correct what had just happened, particularly for my daughter’s sake.
That night, after the smaller children are in bed and Chani is doing her homework at the kitchen table, I go to my desk drawer and take out my package of stationery. I pick one sheet and sit down next to Chani and I start to write. After a few minutes, I seal it up and hand it to Chani.
“Can you give this to the office tomorrow?” I ask her. “It’s an apology note to Mrs. Bloom for taking her spot, saying that I was wrong.”
My daughter looks me full-on in the face for the first time today since I dropped her off. “Sure, Ima. No problem.”
Not anymore, I think. Not anymore.
Discussion Question Options:
In what way do parents violate or minimize established rules with their children’s knowledge? In what ways do parents denigrate authority in front of their children?
What are some ways we can help our children see our respect for people?
How does achdus flow naturally from respect?
Stretch of the Week:
Make an extra gesture of respect toward an authority figure, whether a rav, a teacher, or an elder.