Between Us: Let’s talk about respect

Between Us

This week’s double parasha is Acharei / KedoshimThe concepts covered are considered by many commentators to be equal to the Ten Commandments, since laws of the Torah that regulate interpersonal human behavior are found here. These laws form the basis for an orderly society, establishing trust between the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, the able-bodied and disabled.

The parasha begins by urging us to be holy, and then tells us how to do so, beginning with respect for our parents, God and our relationship with our fellow human beings. We are instructed not to insult the deaf nor place a stumbling block before the blind. We are commanded to be fair in our judgments and in our business dealings.

For the first time in history, we are called upon to create a new chapter in our relations with those who are disabled. We are told that they deserve honor and respect. We are informed that they merit attention and care and that they will receive God’s love and protection. That is why the verse ends with the words, “You shall fear your God.” While the deaf will not hear a curse and the blind will not see an insulting gesture, we must remember that God hears and sees on their behalf.

Being holy is a function of our relationships with other people. It becomes real when we are just and compassionate. It is manifest when we are respectful of others and ethical in our behavior.