A Little Respect
Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34 )
It's great to be respectful. The upcoming day of Lag B'Omer is special for many reasons. One of them is that it celebrates the end of a terrible plague long ago that killed nearly all the great rabbis and scholars of the Jewish people. Our sages teach that the plague came because people didn't treat those around them with enough respect. When we show respect for others, it shows that we respect ourselves.
In our story, some kids get a new perspective ... on respect.
"And this field right behind us," the tour guide said with the sweep of his hand, to the school-kids and others gathered for the war memorial ceremony, "was the site of one of the most ferocious battles of the Civil War. Thousands of troops ... "
"Hey! Cut it out!" Jamie yelped, as his friend, Ken, tickled him, drawing a few looks from the people standing next to them in the crowd.
"... more people lost their lives in one day ..."
"Give that back!" Ken squealed, reeling around to try to catch Jamie's hand, which was now dangling the cupcake he'd just snatched out of Ken's backpack.
"Shh!" An elderly lady standing nearby held her finger up to her mouth with a stern look.
The two boys looked at her and giggled. "She looks like she could be from the civil war herself," Jamie said, almost loud enough for the woman to hear.
"And this monument to your left," the guide pointed to a tall granite pillar, "is inscribed with the names and place of birth of every single soldier who fell right here on that solemn day ... "
"You twerp!" Jamie shouted, crashing to the ground as Ken tripped him from behind. He leapt up and started chasing Ken in a circle. The people around them jumped out of their way, some looking annoyed, others scared. The tour guide stopped his speech. The running boys were both laughing loudly...until they ran into a tree trunk - or at least that's what it looked like until they looked up and saw the 'tree' was none other than the biggest, tallest security guard either of them had ever seen.
"Come with me," the man said, in a voice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Like shaking sheep, the boys followed the mountain of a man, as the guide resumed his presentation to a relieved-looking audience.
The threesome stopped at the security booth at the edge of the nearby parking lot.
"W ... we're really sorry, sir," Ken managed to stutter, Jamie bobbing his head in agreement.
"Is that so?" the man said, looking serious, but not angry. "Well, it could be. But to be sorry, a person has to know what he's sorry for, doesn't he?"
The boy nodded nervously.
"Well?" the man asked, "What exactly are you sorry for?"
The two friends looked at each other. Finally Jamie spoke. "It's a memorial ceremony and we were too rowdy. It's like we weren't respectful to the dead, right?"
The man, now hiding a grin, looked them over. "Yes ... and no," he said. Seeing their confused faces and the questions they were afraid to ask, he went on. "True, it is important to respect the dead. But, it's even more important to respect the living. There was a knowledgeable man trying to speak. There were people who'd come from far away who were trying to listen to him. Some of those people," he looked the Jamie in the eyes, "were old enough to be your grandmother. How would you feel if someone was making fun of her?"
The boy lowered his head as the man went on. "So what do you say, guys? Do you go back and participate in the ceremony - this time giving the people around you the respect they deserve ... or do you sit it out here with me until your teacher comes to fetch you?"
The boys walked back to rejoin the crowd, this time carrying with them a new perspective - on respect.
Q. How did Ken and Jamie feel about the way they were acting at first?
A. They didn't care if it was bothering people.
Q. How did they feel afterwards?
A. They understood that they needed to respect the people around them.
Q. What life lesson do you think the boys learned that day?
A. While they realized it was proper to show respect for the dead at the war memorial ceremony, they'd forgotten that it was even more important to show respect to the living people around us that we encounter each day.
Q. Why was the way the boys were acting disrespectful?
A. They were goofing around and not paying attention to the tour guide who was speaking, which was insulting. They were also disturbing others who did want to pay attention.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What make a person 'worthy' to be treated respectfully?
A. Just the fact that he's a person. We don't have to respect people's ideas or actions if they conflict with our values - but we should respect them for just being human.
Q. Can a person be respectful to God without being respectful to people?
A. No. God wants us to respect each other. So if we fail to do so, we are failing to respect Go wishes, which is in essence showing a lack of respect to God.