Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Adar 5761 - March 21, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Even More Respect

by Chaim Walder

A friend and I have been carrying on a debate for years on the issue of what motivates people to act (lehavdil from the spiritual motivation to do Hashem's Will). My friend claims that there are two human motives: money and honor.

I claim, however, that people are motivated only by the desire for honor. I am not referring to the type of honor entailed by "sitting in the Mizrach," nor to that of receiving maftir. It is basically superficial people who suffice themselves with such honor. The type of honor motivating most people is much more tangible. It includes things such as admiration, recognition of one's deeds, activities, intelligence, good heart, success, character traits, personality, monetary worth and even beauty.

The image of someone whose motives are apparently monetary has probably surfaced in your mind. But if you examine the issue in depth, you will discover that a quest for money in order to satisfy the need to accumulate it can be described as an illness, not a motive. On the other hand, most people chase money in order to achieve economic, emotional and social security, as well as the feeling that their status is ensured and that they have power. Once again, we've reached the honor department.

People tend to flinch uncomfortably when someone hints to them that they are interested in accumulating honor. But if we relate to this trait in the right manner, it can benefit the world and improve the lots of the world's inhabitants. The Alter of Slobodke said: "Kovod is middos," meaning that a person who wants to respect himself as Divine handiwork acts in accordance with his Creator's expectations of him. One who regards himself as an inferior being, undeserving of respect, behaves accordingly.

Anyone who works with children will tell you that one of the factors that can activate children is the need to be respected and appreciated. That is the motive common to all children.

When you want to open something, you first have to find its lock. The lock for human beings is their self-esteem. Once you have found the lock and a key that fits, the door opens. You are then able to influence people of every age and circumstance in a manner to affect change in them (either for the good or the bad), cause them to like you and enable you to draw out their best.

Try this: Tell a friend that a third person praised him highly. Most people will respond by praising the person in return. A person has to be really spiteful in order not to respect someone who respects him. Most people aren't like that. Most people are ordinary human beings, whose earthly motives are more or less identical.

When a person hears that someone badmouthed him, he will generally say something bad about that person in return. However, the best rejoinder is to let that person know -- from a number of sources -- that you have praised him. He won't continue to speak ill of you, because you created a good entity and sent it to him. As a result, he won't be able to relay something else back to you.

People can be generous with money or with chesed. But they often find it hard to dole out respect and admiration generously. As we know, "Like water face to face, so is the heart of man to his fellow." The heart is like a mirror. If you look in the mirror after you have painted your face with black shoe polish, you see a black face. If your heart is black towards your fellow, he will feel black towards you.

Isn't this obvious? However, in the real world, people find it difficult to create good. They react to good, respect those who respect them, but nonetheless find it hard to initiate the process.

Some people are incapable of praising others and relate critically to every inanimate or ambulatory entity, to the point that if you ever hear a good word from, you look at them from the corner of your eye to try to detect what is up their sleeves. In general, their accolades are really sarcastic remarks.

But take the most critical person you know and tell him that so-and-so praised him in public in an unbelievably positive manner. You will see how he praises so-and-so in return: this time with all his heart, without his usual sarcasm.

Take advantage of how such a person behaves when he hears praise about him, and transform enemies into friends. Let us learn to adopt the right approach: not to create enemies. Let us acquire friends and find our way in life: a way clear of obstacles others might have wanted to place in our paths.

These ideas appears in Reishis Chochmah in the introduction to Sha'ar Derech Eretz: "And he should try his utmost to honor his fellow, so that he should in turn be respected by others, as it says in Avos 4: `Who is honored? He who honors his fellow.'"

They also appear in Sha'ar Ha'onovo, chapter three: "One should make efforts to respect all people. The poor and the rich should be equal in his eyes, because all that distinguishes the poor from the rich is money, for both of them were created in Hashem's image. One who respects his fellow, respects the Supreme Artisan. If chas vesholom he disgraced them, it is as if he has disgraced the Artisan Who created them."

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.