HONOR


HONOR, the high respect, esteem, reverence, admiration, or approbation shown, felt toward, or received by a deity or person. Honor is accorded to those in a position of authority (Gen. 45:13) achieved by heroism (Judg. 8:22; I Sam. 18:5), wisdom (Gen. 41:39; Prov. 3:16), or divine favor (I Sam. 24:7, 11). Honor is due to parents (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Mal. 1:6) and the aged (Lev. 19:32; Lam. 5:12) since they embody wisdom (Job 32:7, 9). Those who have wealth (Prov. 14:24) and children (I Sam. 2:1) are also subject to honor since these possessions are a sign of God's favor. Associated with stature (I Sam. 9:2) and comeliness (I Sam. 16:18; Ps. 45:3), honor is denoted in the Bible by terms whose primary meanings are "weight" (kavod, yekar (yeqar)), "height" (gedullah, gaʾon), "strength" (hod, ʿoz, ḥayil), "beauty" (hadar, tif'eret), or "praise" (tehillah). Honor may be conceived as a crown or garment (Ps. 8:6; 104:1; Job 19:9). It is conferred by symbolic investment (I Sam. 18:4; Esth. 6:7–8) and rescinded by symbolic stripping (Hos. 2:5). Charity and justice earn honor (Job 29:11ff.) for two reasons. First, ethics is a branch of wisdom (Job 28:28) whose reward is honor (Prov. 4:9). Second, morality honors God (Micah 6:8), who, in turn, honors those who honor Him (I Sam. 2:30). Thus the faithful are honored and the faithless disgraced (Ps. 91:15; Lam. 5:16). Honor is demonstrated by standing (Lev. 19:32; Job 29:8), prostration (Gen. 18:2), silence (Hab. 2:20; Job 29:9–10), shouting (Ps. 98:4; 100:1), and presenting gifts (Gen. 32:14; Ps. 72:10). These forms are employed in divine worship as an extension of their use in displaying honor to temporal authorities.

[Mayer Irwin Gruber]

In the Talmud

The Hebrew word kavod is the most significant word in the Talmud to express the most desirable of relations of mutual respect for the dignity of one's fellow. It is employed in every aspect of that relationship, both for the respect which is due from the inferior to the superior, but also, and more significantly, for the concept of the respect and consideration which one should have for one's equal, for mankind as such. In the former category it is employed to express the respect one should have for parents, which is the subject of the fifth commandment, for one's teacher (Tanḥ. Be-Shallaḥ 26), for a monarch (Ket. 17a), for the nasi (Kid. 32b), and for the scholar. It is enjoined in the general rule to "give honor to one greater than oneself " (Pes. 113b). A rigid order of precedence was established. The last Mishnah of Horayot gives an order of precedence: priest, levite, Israelite, *mamzer, nethin, proselyte, and freed slave. Where the Babylonian Talmud, however, maintains that this precedence refers merely to ransoming from slavery and to providing material needs, the Jerusalem Talmud (Hor. end) maintains that it applies to the precedence of honor (yeshivah) and therefore extends the list to scholar, king, high priest, prophet, "priest anointed for war," the head of the *mishmar, the head of a patriarchal house, the amarkal, and the treasurer. So important was this respect regarded that it was permitted, and even enjoined, to interrupt one's reading of the Shema "to greet out of respect" (Ber. 2:1). Some categories (the king (Ket. 17a) and one's teacher) were not permitted to renounce the dignity which was due to them; about the nasi there are conflicting opinions (cf. Ket. 17a with Kid. 32b). More significant however is the insistence of the honor due to one's equal. R. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus enjoined "Let the honor of thy colleague be as dear to thee as thine own honor" (Avot 2:10), while R. Eleazar b. Shammua enjoined that the respect to one's colleague should be "as the reverence for thy teacher" (ibid. 4:12). The daily prayer of Rav included one for "a life of prosperity and honor" (Ber. 16b). So great was "the honor of God's creatures" regarded that "God has regard to the dignity of His creatures" (Sif. Deut. 192) and honor annuls even a negative commandment of the Bible (Ber. 19b), especially the honor of the community (TJ, Ber. 3:1, 6a). To such an extent was one's personal dignity regarded that Rabban Johanan b. Zakkai explained the lesser penalty for the theft of a sheep, for which he pays fourfold restitution, compared with an ox, for which he pays five, that he is, so to speak, partially compensated for the lack of personal dignity involved in having to carry the sheep on his shoulders (BK 79b). The maxim of R. Judah ha-Nasi was that man should always choose the way "which is an honor to him and gets him honor from men" (Avot 2:1) while Ben Zoma said "who is honored? He who honors others" (ibid. 4:1). One had to show honor to one's wife (BM 59a) and even to one's divorced wife (TJ, Ket. 11:3, 34b). Honor had always to be given, never demanded. The pursuit of personal honor "takes a man out of the world" (Avot 4:21) and one should always shun it (ibid. 6:6). The popular proverb, "He who pursues honor, honor flees from him, while he who flees from honor is overtaken by it" does not occur as such in the Talmud, the relevant passage employing the word gedullah ("greatness") and not kavod, but the implication is the same. The rabbis were especially censorious against the person who "achieved honor at the expense of the shame of his fellow man." He who does so "has no share in the world to come" (TJ, Ḥag. 2:1, 77c), and R. Neḥunya b. ha-Kanah attributed his old age to the fact that he had never been guilty of this fault (Meg. 28a). The statement "It is not the place that a man occupies that gives him honor, but the man gives honor to the place he occupies" (Ta'an. 21b) has become a popular proverb.

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.