Today I was reminded of a famous saying: “If someone teaches you just one word of Holiness, you owe him a lifetime of respect”. I use the word Holiness because this very quote is used in both Judaism and Islam, and although what constitutes “Holiness” may differ, the concept remains the same no matter how you are.
We read in Pirkei Avos that the definition of a wise man is one who learns from everyone, but unfortunately, I feel that in the 21st Century, many of us have forgotten that we have something to learn from each and every person who enters into our life. Encounters happen through Divine providence for a reason, and often, this reason is to teach us a unique lesson.
In a way, everyone we encounter is a teacher. They teach us how to behave or how not to behave: how to treat someone in need of help, and how not to. And as a result, everyone is worthy of respect. Sometimes, if someone is a bad influence in our lives, this respect takes the form of terminating a relationship, for our sake and theirs, but every human being deserves kavod.
Without respect for those who teach us how to live our lives- no matter who they are or where they come from- we transgress the greatest Jewish traditions.