Respecting OthersNovember 19, 2013 - 5:00 am
“Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’”—Genesis 37:5–7
The Torah portion for this week, Vayeishev, which means “and he lived,” is from Genesis 37:1—40:23, and the Haftorah is from Amos 2:6–3:8.
The lunchroom in the summer camp was packed. Rabbi Moshe Scherer, a well-respected and influential American rabbi with a huge following, was about to make an appearance and the kids were so excited to have such an esteemed visitor. Here’s what the kids didn’t know: Rabbi Scherer was extremely ill. In fact, his doctor had only reluctantly agreed to let him go. The doctor cautioned: “Just go, speak, and leave right away through a back entrance so that you don’t come into contact with any germs.” But that’s not what the Rabbi did.
After Rabbi Scherer finished speaking, he walked directly toward Table 32 and gave each kid sitting there a hug. This table belonged to a bunk with special-needs kids. The Rabbi’s startled son was beside himself, and after the two left the camp, he asked his father how he could do such a thing. The Rabbi explained: “It was so important for me to honor those kids. I know it makes me a bad patient but I wanted to do something good for them, something that would last them for the rest of their lives. Those kids are usually put down and disrespected. I wanted to show everyone how much respect they truly deserve.”
The greatness of a person is not revealed by how much they impress those “above” them; it is determined by how they treat those “under” them.
Everyone wants to be respected. We instinctively feel that the way to win respect is by impressing others, particularly those to whom we esteem. But in reality, that’s not what earns real respect – not from ourselves and not from others. The most impressive people I know are those who are kind and respectful to the young, the needy, the helpless, and the hopeless. Making others feel good is what makes these people great!
In this week’s Torah reading, Joseph had good intentions when he revealed his dream to his brothers. It was truly a prophetic dream that predicted that Joseph would one day rule over his brothers as a prince of Egypt. However, he was mistaken in the way that he asserted his power over his brothers. He did it in a way that robbed them of their dignity. Instead of flaunting his superiority, he should have been more sensitive and shown them more respect.
This week, look for ways to show respect to others – the children we come in contact with, the woman checking out our groceries, or someone who works for us. In doing so, we don’t degrade our own standing; rather, we upgrade the esteem of another person.