Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rabbi Min on Kavod Morim uHorim

Honoring Parents & Teachers - Basic Jewish Value #15:  The mission statement of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico reads: “Guided by Jewish values, we offer targeted social services that help preserve and improve the quality of life for New Mexicans.” What are these Jewish values? How do they help guide the day-to-day work that we do at JFS? When new employees join the staff of JFS, they are introduced to eighteen of these basic Jewish values.

The Jewish value of honoring parents and teachers derives, originally, from the Ten Commandments. Honoring parents however, extends beyond those who gave us life or brought us up. It extends to all who act as parents toward us, teaching us about how to live a meaningful, moral, productive and compassionate life. Those influential adults model good behavior, while being available to counsel and guide us. In Jewish tradition, we also explicitly honor our teachers with a special prayer, recognizing that each generation of teachers depends on those who taught them. By extension, we honor all elders, recognizing that each of them has something to teach, if only we provide the opportunity for that teaching to occur.

At JFS, where the vast majority of our clients are seniors, it is clear that while staff members are providing services to those clients, we are also receiving gifts from them. Gifts of wisdom and experience, gifts of stories and songs, gifts of smiles and laughter. In Hebrew, the word “Kavod” “Honor” also means “heavy”, not only in terms of what the scale says, but in terms of what kind of people we are. We refer to people whose opinions we do not value as “light-weights”, while those who influence us are, in the vernacular, called “heavy duty”. The Jewish value of Kavod horim umorim reminds us that parents, teachers and elders are weighty influences on our lives, that we respect them, and that we hope to emulate their ideals in our own lives. 

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