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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Can I call you Daniel?

Daf Yomi Kesubos 85

Just like the night is darkest before the dawn, our Sages tell us that in the era before the coming of Moshiach, chutzpah will abound.  We live in an age when nobody has any respect anymore.  Many children call their parents by their first names; many students call their teachers by their first names.   The younger generation lacks respect for their elders – instead of seeking their wisdom, they think they know better than the old fogies.

There was once a fellow who declared, ‘I leave everything to Toviah’ and died. Toviah came along.
Rabbi Yochanan announced, ‘Behold, Toviah has come.’
If the dying man said ‘Toviah,’ but Rabbi Toviah came, it’s not the same.  He declared Toviah should inherit, not Rabbi Toviah.  But if he would normally arrogantly refer to the rabbi by his first name, he was probably just being arrogant and meant Rabbi Toviah.

Unfortunately, our generation’s problem of disrespect has reached so deep that our authority figures often even encourage people to be disrespectful.   It’s the teachers themselves that are telling their students to call them by their first names.  It’s the parents themselves that are telling their children to call them by their first names.  And despite the arrogance, as the Talmud calls it, we live in an age where many rabbis are asking people to call them by their first names.

Would you walk into the Prime Minister’s office and say, ‘Hi Stephen’?  Would you address a judge in court by her first name?  Of course not.  We still have some shred of respect left.  When rabbis, teachers or parents offer their first names to be used, their motivation is utterly misguided.  In their minds, they want to remove barriers and forge a closer relationship with those in their care. 

But they’ve forgotten what they represent.  When you show respect for your teacher, you are showing respect for the institution of education.  That’s what teachers embody.  When you show respect for your rabbi, you are showing respect for the Torah.  And when you show respect for parents, you are showing respect for G-d – they are His partners in giving you life.

It’s time we started teaching our kids to respect.  When you show the right respect, you appreciate your values and the importance of where you’ve come from.  May you merit showing, earning and receiving respect and may Moshiach come despite our good manners! 

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