Honor, Respect & Kabalas ha’Torah

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Shmini, the pasuk says: “And the entire congregation came close, and they stood – וַיַּעַמְדוּ – before Hashem” (Lev.9:5).

On the word וַיַּעַמְדוּ, R’ Yitzchok Ziberstein tells over the following vignette: There was a custom in a certain Jewish owned, kosher hotel in the United States, for one of the hotel guests to deliver a short shiur between mincha and maariv.

It happened one time that R’ Moshe Feinstein zt’l was a guest at the hotel, and he went to the hotel shul to daven mincha.  The person giving the shiur that day was a businessman, who was also well versed in Torah.  After mincha, this person rose from his place and walked toward the front of the shul to give the shiur.

Only one person in the shul stood up for the businessman.  That person was R’ Moshe Feinstein zt’l, who commented, “If he is teaching Torah publicly, it is proper to stand up in his honor.” (Aleinu L’Shabei’ach Vayikra, p.117)

וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה, עָנָו מְאֹד–מִכֹּל, הָאָדָם, אֲשֶׁר, עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, And the man Moshe was more humble than any man upon the face of the earth (Num.12:3).
It was not beneath the dignity of the gadol ha’dor to accord honor to a businessman who was delivering a short dvar Torah.  We would do well to learn from his example: we must always strive to accord honor to our fellow Jews.

As we journey through the holy, solemn days of Sefiras Ha’Omer, counting upward from Egypt to Sinai, from impurity to Torah, and as we recall the students of Rabbi Akiva, who died during this time because they did not accord honor to one another (Yevamos 62b), we must strive to behave with respect, kindness and honor towards every Jew.  Whether we are alike or different, the same or not… We are all part of this glorious nation of Am Yisrael.

And if we hope to be zocheh to be mekabel the Torah in a few short weeks, to once again declare “we will do and we will listen” (Ex.24:7), then we must be sure to be like one man, with one heart (see Rashi to Ex.19:2).  For with respect and unity comes redemption and Torah.

Wishing you a good Shabos and a chodesh tov,
Michal

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