> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > A Life Lesson

Respect and Be Respected

Vayeshev (Genesis 37-40 )

by Adam Lieberman

Jacob had 12 sons, including his son Joseph. One day...

"Joseph dreamt a dream which he told to his brothers, and they hated him.... He said to them ... we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, when ... my sheaf arose and ... remained standing; then ... your sheaves ... bowed down to my sheaf." (Genesis, 37:5-7)


Most of us all have someone that we need to answer to in one way or another. Whether it's a supervisor at work, a teacher in school, or a parent at home, there's usually someone in our life that plays an authoritative role. Sometimes these "bosses" enjoy reminding us constantly of their authority and like to talk down to us. And other times they'll choose to treat us with the utmost respect and kindness.

Interestingly, we all find ourselves in the exact same authoritative position countless times throughout the day. There are many people in our lives over whom - if we choose to - we can exercise an enormous amount of dominance and control. We can treat these people most any way we see fit, usually with little or no consequences. For example, this can happen every time you interact with a waitress, a store clerk, or any hired help. Since these people "need" to listen to us, we have the potential to treat them with outright rudeness and disrespect.

The reason why you'll sometimes see people acting this way is that they believe it gives their ego a boost to "boss" someone around. We all have a desire on some level be in a position of authority in business, politics, or the community. So, in an unconscious effort to fulfill this desire, some people will simply choose to treat others in a manner like they rule over them and act like their sheaf arose and remained standing.

This is the mistake that Joseph made with his brothers and why they really disliked him.

There's a quick test you can take to know whether or not you're acting properly towards others. How do you treat people that you don't have to be nice to?

You can instantly learn about a person's self-esteem by observing just how they treat people to whom they don't have to be nice. Sadly, many people will act one way toward their boss and people they want to impress but then become demanding or rude when speaking to some others.

Ironically, it's actually a huge boost to your self-esteem when you treat other people - regardless of who they are - with tremendous respect. This shows that you have a strong self-image and you don't need to knock someone down in order for you to feel taller. In fact, the better you can make others feel, the higher your own self-esteem will soar. It's a law of nature. While you might feel an artificial increase in your self-esteem when others bow down to you, the exact opposite is true. So start practicing the real golden rule, and treat everyone you meet like pure gold.

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