דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה – Derech Eretz Precedes Torah. What could this phrase mean? The Talmud and Midrash say that derech eretz (literal translation: way of the land) has over 200 interpratations, some of them being respectful, decent, polite, thoughtful, and using civilized behavior. Why is doing this more important than Torah? Well, a great Sage once said that “Love your fellow as yourself” is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary. Derech Eretz is about respecting yourself and others.
This means to me that we should always go out of our way to respect others and be good people. We, as Jews, are role models for the Jewish people. If we do something wrong, a person might think, “All Jews are like that.” Then, the world will hate us. It’s possible that’s why the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Holocaust all happened. A Jew might’ve offended Pharaoh, so he decided to throw all of the Jewish boys into the Nile. A Jew could’ve insulted Hadrian and that’s why he slaughtered us. A Jew possibly said Pope Urban II had a funny hat and a Muslim said he should wear a green robe, so he instigated the Crusades.
I believe that we should all follow this verse by putting other people before ourselves. For example, if you are reading a book you might eat around it, but if you’re borrowing it then you don’t eat around it. You should be respectful to others and be a role model. I do this by doing little things like offering to let people talk first, or giving them things. I also volunteer to do little errands. I could do better by not being disrespectful and rude to others, and being quiet. As a school, we could continue with the Community of Kindness program and actually educate us on what is right and wrong, actually teaching us what that means. We should be doing that at least once a week, for an hour or so. I am sure that we would have positive results from that experience.
Note: I could not get this picture to load, so here is the link to it: http://flic.kr/p/h8R2WF