Our Jewish value of the month at the J is “Respect — Kavod” and I have been talking with toddlers through senior adults about this value. The first place I often go is to the dictionary. Here are a few definitions of words about respect, honor, kavod:
- RESPECT: the condition of being honored, esteemed, well regarded; an attitude of admiration.
- HONOR: (much harder to define) the state of being honored; being honorable; having a good name.
- KAVOD: respect; honor; dignity
The Hebrew word kavod comes from the Hebrew word meaning “heavy,” which gives us an important message that respect is a pretty heavy responsibility. Respect, kavod, begins with each person. If we feel proud of ourselves, what we achieve and how we behave, it is self-respect. Imagine what a wonderful place the world would be if we all showed respect to one another. The rabbis taught that every person should have two pockets. In one pocket, put a piece of paper that says, “I am but dust and ashes.” In the other pocket, the paper should say, “For my sake alone was the world created.”
When we feel too proud, we remind ourselves that we are but dust and when we are feeling low, we remind ourselves that God created the world for us. When we recognize and acknowledge the value and worth of every human being, when we honor and respect the uniqueness of each person, then we will work with God on tikkun olam — to repair the world.
Who is honored and respected? One who honors and respects others. (Pirke Avot)
Let your neighbor’s honor be as dear to you as your own. (Pirke Avot)
Questions to think, talk about
- What does respect mean to you? What does it look like (actions)?
- Share an example of how you have been respected or shown respect.
- Talk about people you respect. Who is (or has been) a role model for you? What are the characteristics of the people you respect?
- How is following rules a form of respect? What are the rules we follow to show respect?
- The Torah teaches: You shall rise before the aged. (Leviticus) What does this mean? Why is it so important to show respect to older people?
- What does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself”?