Lag B'Omer highlights the need for respect

    May 2009            
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Lag B'Omer: Thinking about Respect

By Harry S. Pearle

Lag B'Omer always puzzles me. Why are we in a state of mourning for 32 days? We mourn for one day on Tisha b'Av and the same one day on other fast days. So why do we take on customs of mourning for 32 days straight at this time of year?

We are told that Rabbi Akiva's students perished because they did not respect one another enough. What's the big deal about respect, Kavod? Consider two men who lack respect for each other. (See above cartoon.)

Without respect many things can happen between two people. They may not listen to one another. They may not even speak to one another. They may not even look at one another. They may not even think about one another. They may not help one another. They may even do harm to one another.

Everyone deserves respect. We all have some merit in this world. We all have something to share and something unique to teach from our own personal life's experiences. There is even a saying that 'A fool can ask a question that one hundred sages cannot answer'.

Think what the world would be like if each one of us gave more respect to just one person. We learn, in fact, that in the time of Rabbi Akiva, there was hope in the coming of of the Messiah. What can we do, now to bring him, in our time? Perhaps we can begin with more respect.

We can start by focusing on a single person. We can greet him with a smile and call out his name. We can ask how he is doing. We can ask for his opinions and advice. We can thank him for the good he has done. We can recognize his special interests and abilities. We can even humbly say we are sorry for not giving him more of our attention.

We can also encourage others to give us more respect, too. We don't have to be treated like doormats. We can ask others about how we can gain more of their respect. We can patiently spend time with people to iron out differences.

Perhaps we can use the above cartoon to remind ourselves and others to give more respect.

Like Rabbi Akiva's students, we can study Torah with someone new and we can become friends. 'Hillel says: Be of the disciplines of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing, loving your fellow men, and drawing them near to the Torah' (Avos.1.12).

See Harry S. Pearle's blog:


from the May 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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