Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Kavod, honor, is the hat that respectability wears. It is like the proverbial happiness-butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.

Kavod has two translations: honor and respect, which are similar but distinct. That’s why everyone who is honored is respected but not everyone who is respected is honored.


A person can command respect. Respect is earned by working hard and achieving. He “earns” respect, just like he gets paid for working. We acknowledge achievement by paying – with respect.

But a person cannot command honor. Honor is not earned, it is granted. You can work hard and hope to be rewarded with a bonus, but it is not owed to you. Likewise, honor can only be bestowed on you by others.

Actually, one who demands honor will lose his respectability too, as the Talmud says: he who seeks honor, honor flees from him while he who flees from honor, honor pursues him.

Why so? Respect is granted for definable achievements. But honor is much deeper, it reveres the core of the person, the intangible whole which is much more than the sum of its parts.

May we all be honorable mentschen.


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Rabbi Gershon Schusterman is the author of "Why, God, Why? How to Believe in Heaven When it Hurts Like Hell."