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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Honour thy garbageman and thy mailman

Daf Yomi Yevamos 52

When the Holy Ark was recaptured from the Philistines, it was en route back to the Tabernacle on a wagon.  Ahitophel rebuked King David, ‘How could you place the Holy Ark on a wagon, when Moses insisted that it be transported on the shoulders of the Levites?’  Ahitophel’s chutzpah and arrogance culminated later in his joining the revolt of Absalom against David.  Nevertheless, in an incredible display of humility, King David refers to him in Psalms as his rabbi, his mentor, and his friend, for having taught him the proper respect for the Holy Ark. 

Rav would give lashes to any person who was disrespectful to a messenger of the court.

You can imagine how people would disrespect the messenger of the court.  ‘Oh, he’s just the mailman.  He’s the bearer of bad tidings, don’t go anywhere near that guy.’   G-d forbid!  This man is the messenger of the beth din – he represents the rabbis who sent him.  Our Sages teach that the messenger of a person is like the person themselves.  He may be just an unlettered postman, but think about who and what he represents and give him the respect he deserves!

We learn from King David to what lengths we must go to honour people in our lives.  Ahitophel not only spoke with chutzpah to the king; he later rebelled against him!  He was guilty of treason, and yet David still honoured him with a special place in the Book of Psalms.  How much more so must we honour those who bring good fortune to our lives!

Ben Azzai teaches in Ethics of the Fathers, “Do not despise any person and do not dismiss any thing; for there is no man who does not have his day and there is no thing that does not have its place.”  Every human being has a unique and important mission in this world.  Every individual is a messenger of the Almighty to fulfill that mission.  Remember, a messenger is like the sender themselves, and so every human being should be honoured the way you would honour their Sender – the Almighty Himself! 

Don’t disdain or dismiss anyone.  You might think, ‘Oh, he’s just the mailman.  He’s just the garbage-man.  Why should I honour them?’  But imagine they weren’t in your life.  Imagine you had to go and transport your own rubbish to the dump each week!  Boy, do you owe them honour for the important role they play in your life! 

So how do you show them honour?  You might not even know them.  You know they exist, because somehow when you get home each day the mail has magically appeared in your letterbox and your garbage has been removed.  It’s time to show them some honour and thank them for their wonderful service.

Particularly at this time of year, everyone likes to be shown a little honour, love, and gratitude.  This week is American Thanksgiving and we then move on to the Chanukah season.  Traditionally, Chanukah was associated with giving gifts to our children’s Torah teachers, since Chanukah is related to the word chinuch, meaning education.  Somehow it has evolved into a universal gift-giving season and Rabbi Moses Iserles in the sixteenth century Code of Jewish Law rules that one may give gifts to one’s non-Jewish neighbours during this season, as long as it is not on the day of their holiday itself.  

This year, take time to think of all the people in your life, from great to small, who you should be honouring.  Buy them a little something and write them a card to let them know how much you appreciate them being in your life.  If you would sit down and make a list, you would find so many people that you have neglected to honour, from the mailman to the garbage-collectors to your child’s schoolteachers, to the receptionist at work, the list goes on and on!  


Always remember, showing them honour ultimately means giving honour to G-d!