Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” (Es. 6:6)
Learning the middah of honor during the week of Purim is a great fit, because the book of Esther is all about honor—its attractions, its perils, and, in the end, its proper use.
Today was no ordinary day. It was my mitigation hearing for speeding in a school zone. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. Really? Well, given it was a construction zone, poor sign placement, not normal hours for speed reduction, not having traveled down the road except for 2 times, I had my reasons. I had some shpilkes concerning the hearing, mostly because I am not a lawless person and don't desire hearings or an appearance before a judge. But some things need to be done to help others in the community.
The middah of honor is an essential part of “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which in turn is essential to the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and substance. If we don’t honor the people around us, can we really claim to honor the God who made them?
Ben Zoma teaches: Who is worthy of kavod? The one who treats other human beings with kavod. As it I said: For those who honor Me, I will honor, and those who scorn Me, I will scorn. (1 Sam. 2:30) – Pirkei Avot, 4:1
We usually think of honor as something that is earned. It is an honor to receive a Ph.D. in one’s field, or to be given an award for excellence in a particular area of work. The people to whom we most often give honor are those who have received “honors” for things they have done. This leads to a view that the honor we receive is based primarily on achievement.
The Hebrew word for honor is kavod. When we give honor to others, we are elevating them to their right place. When we rise for the elderly, we honor their age and wisdom. When we honor our parents, we show that we realize their role as lifegivers in partnership with Hashem.
Use these questions to evaluate your day:
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." -- Shemot 20:12
"And one should not study Torah or do any good deed for the sake of honor, but only for the sake of the Creator, Blessed be He, and, ultimately, the honor will come." -- The Ways of the Tzadikkim, The Gate of Love, pg 119
Rabbi Eliezer said: "Let the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own." -- Avot 2:15
Rabbi Elazar of Modiim said: "If a man profanes things which are sacred, and offends the holidays and puts his fellow to shame publicly, and makes void the covenant of Abraham our father, and teaches meanings in the Torah which are not according to Halachah, even though he has a knowledge of the Torah and good works, he has no share in the world to come." -- Avot 3:15
Ben Zoma said: "Who is wise? He who learns from all men, as it is written (Tehillim 119:99) 'I have gained understanding from all my teachers.'" -- Avot 4:1
"Who is honored? He that honors his fellow men as it is written (I Shmuel 2:30) 'For those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt.' " -- Avot 4:1
Rabbi Yochanan ben Baroka said: "Whoever profanes the name of Heaven in secret will pay the penalty in public, whether it be done accidentally or intentionally." -- Avot 4:5
"So then, whatever you want sons of men to do to you, do the same to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets." -- Mashiach Yeshua, Matthew 7:12, DHE
"The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old." ~Mishlei 20:29
"The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame." ~ Mishlei 3:35
In Jerusalem long ago, an incredible incident took place in the office of a gemach (Jewish free loan fund, acronym of gemilut chasadim, acts of kindness). Customarily, the various gemachs in Jerusalem were all open on Thursdays, to be available to people who needed to borrow money for food for Shabbat. By Thursday night, all the gemach offices would be closed, mainly because money that had been available for the week was already gone.
One gemach, however, remained open on Friday mornings. The compassionate and sympathetic Reuven kept his gemach open, just in case someone needed him at the last minute. True, there was not so much money left by Friday, but he felt that one never knew who might be in desperate need. One Friday, when all the gemachs were closed except for Reuven’s, a young married man came in and asked for money for his family’s Shabbat food.
Reuven recognized the man for he had just been at the gemach the day before, and said, “If I remember correctly, you were here just yesterday.”
The young man’s face became flushed with anger. “Are you trying to tell me that I don’t need the money?” he fumed. “No, we are not saying that at all …” explained Reuven.
“Well, then lend me the money that I need! I already have cosigners for surety.”
Reuven looked at the young man compassionately and explained that it was the policy of the gemach not to lend twice within such a short period. The young man was enraged. Yelling, he stormed toward Reuven and slapped him across the face! The gentle Reuven stood there in shock and disbelief. No one had ever had the audacity to scream at him, let alone slap him.
Reuven’s assistant stepped forward to retaliate, but Reuven held him back. “Wait a moment,” Reuven said to the young man, “I’ll be back with the money right away.” He gave the bills to the young man and wished him well. The young man thanked him and left.
Because of the noise and commotion a few neighbors had gathered in the office to see what had happened. “If I were in your shoes,” one man shouted, “after such humiliation I would have demanded that he give back the money you had lent him yesterday, and pushed him out the door!”
Reuven, whose face still stung from the slap, explained. “I know this fellow. Under normal circumstances he would never have acted this way. He must be having such terrible problems that he lost himself completely. It’s because he did behave in such an unnatural way that I realized how desperate his position is. Now, more than ever, is the time to help him, and not be angry at him. So I went out of my way for him.” --Rabbi Paysach Krohn, The Maggid Speaks, pp. 86-87