Parshat Nitzavim: To respect and honor others

Ava Perlin
Ava Perlin (Photo by Ryan Perlin)

By Ava Perlin

Parshat Nitzavim focuses on our covenant and relationship with God by instructing us to worship only God and setting forth the punishment if we worship other gods. Deuteronomy 29:19 says, “The Lord will never forgive him; rather will the Lord’s anger and passion rage against that man, till every sanction recorded in this book comes down upon him, and the Lord blots out his name from under heaven.”

The message is clear: If God is disrespected, the punishment is severe.

But what does it mean to show God respect? For many, it means not worshiping idols, keeping kosher, praying every morning and night and not igniting a fire on Shabbat. However, respecting God means more than just the commandments between people and God. The best way to respect and honor God is to respect and honor the people around us. Pirkei Avot says, “On three things the world stands: on Torah, on service, and on acts of human kindness.” A great deal of effort is expended by many on Torah and prayer, but if an equal effort was placed on showing real human kindness to others, even those with whom we disagree, the world would immediately feel like a more welcoming place. Sometimes, the smallest act of kindness toward people who need help can make a large impact.

I know that the show “The Good Place” is a great show to watch for a laugh, but it also shares a humorous approach to real moral philosophy. One of the characters known for being selfish came to a realization about how valuable such efforts can be when she said, “Me, trying just a little bit, put some good out into the world.”

Sometimes, that’s all it takes, and I challenge us all to make that effort. If you see someone who could use some help, make the extra effort to help them. Small acts like holding open the door, or larger acts like volunteering at a local soup kitchen or nonprofit organization, show God the greatest respect by honoring each other and spreading kindness.

Ava Perlin is an eighth grader at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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