Teaching Respect in Today’s Society

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We live in a very liberal society where the bashing of even our greatest leaders, from the president down , is not only tolerated, but part and parcel of the democratic way.

One only has to experience an election campaign to realize the extremes the candidates will go to insult and smear each other in a most sickening manner. There is no effort to seek the truth as innuendoes, half truth, and mockery are hurled at others at an astronomical speed.

No wonder respect for government officials has reached a new low. One cannot erase the memories of all one heard about the winning candidate just because the election is over!

The danger in all this is that once one destroys respect for a president, that immediately undermines the respect for everyone else of lesser rank. We suddenly become cynical of everyone in any other position of leadership, be he a teacher, a rabbi, a judge or an officer. In fact this all leads to a breakdown of respect for humanity in general. After all, disrespect only breeds more disrespect!

In order to demand respect we must first learn to show respect. We all know that a parent or teacher that shows respect for his students gets back the same respect. Yet, it is extremely difficult to counter the strong outside influences that we all are exposed to. If pushing and shoving can be tolerated during rush hour on the train or bus, then why is a grocery shop line any different. If people can double park and block someone then we are teaching others that my rights come before the next person . If Motzi Shem Ra and Loshon Hara is rampant on the phone lines, then from where should a child learn to respect the feelings of others.

It’s to the great credit of both parents and schools that the vast majority of our students are polite and respectful and we certainly have nothing to be ashamed of. However we must constantly be on the guard that the outside winds of permissiveness and disrespect don’t infiltrate our own homes. After all, we don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a society where respect and family values are slowly being chopped away. Even the greatest Tzaddik living door to door to a rosha will find it very difficult not to be influenced by his bad ways.

This demands that both the home and the yeshiva put great stress on these areas. The stronger the enemy fire, the stronger we must build up our fortification of protection. We must do all in our power to counteract the strong outside influence of disrespect and replace it with a proper sense of values and respect. True, it will take lots of work to counteract the great outside influences that are part of today’s modern culture, but we cannot afford to give up the fight. In a country were we are so concerned that our own rights be well protected we must not fail to teach that disrespect is an infringement on the rights of others.

Let’s not play ping pong and throw the ball in each others court. Only if the school and home will work together to fight this plague of insensitivity to the rights of others can we hope to succeed!