“He doesn’t treat me with respect,” she complained bitterly. What exactly does she mean? Did he fail to rise from his La-Z-Boy recliner when she entered the room? Did he speak to her brusquely or patronizingly? Without further explanation, it’s difficult to know whether he’s a lout or whether she is excessively demanding.
The Hebrew word for respect—KaVoD—is the same as the Hebrew word for heavy or weighty—KaVeD.
This helps us understand that treating someone or something with respect means according due weightiness. For this reason, we use the word gravitas in English. Gravitas, derived from the Latin for gravity, implies weightiness. Without gravity, nothing would have any weight.
It wasn’t a new idea when Aretha Franklin sang in 1967, “…all I’m askin’ is for a little respect…” Eve did so far earlier. Let’s examine a conversation between Eve and the serpent.
…and [the serpent] said to the woman,
“Is it true that God told you not to eat of any of the trees of the garden?”
As any sales professional knows, never ask a prospect a question that can be answered with a yes or a no. That makes it too easy to end the conversation. A man trying to engage a woman in conversation knows the same thing. And the serpent, up to no good, knows he must engage Eve.
Ordinarily, she might never have stooped to converse with the serpent but his scurrilous implication is too much for her to bear. She has to defend God from that defamatory accusation.
Therefore, she responded saying:
…from the fruit of trees in the garden we may eat.
…from the… tree in the middle of the garden,
God said don’t eat of it and don’t touch it lest you die.
Wait a minute! Eve wasn’t present in the garden when God told Adam in Genesis 2:17 that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was prohibited. God said nothing to Adam about touching the tree!
Clearly, after Eve joined Adam, he related to her the prohibition against eating the fruit of the special tree. However, ancient Jewish wisdom points out that Adam added an extra prohibition of his own. He told Eve that death would result not only from eating the fruit of the tree but also from merely touching the tree.
Ancient Jewish wisdom fills in more hidden information. After Eve finished speaking to the serpent in Genesis 3:3, he ‘accidentally’ stumbled against her and pushed her into the tree. After she touched the tree, the serpent says to her:
…you won’t die…
The serpent’s logic is impeccable. You’ve touched the tree and nothing happened. The bit about dying if you eat of the fruit must be equally false. Whereupon Eve tasted from the fruit and gave also to Adam (Genesis 3:6)
Adam could have said, “We want to obey God and not eat of the fruit of that tree. Let’s place an additional obstacle for our safety. Let’s decide even to not touch the tree.
But he didn’t. Adam treated Eve as if she was a child pretending that his idea was God’s word. He showed disrespect by not allowing her to carry the weight of full knowledge and a shared decision. The consequences were fatal.
It is so much easier to tell our employees, spouses and friends what we have decided rather than to request feedback or share our reasoning. While in unequal relationships (such as with children) this might be necessary occasionally, most of us err by doing so too frequently. According respect is basic human dignity. It is also wise policy and we benefit from this deeper understanding of the above verses.
One area sorely missing respect is relationships. We immerse our young in a sexualized culture, degrading a wondrous and wonderful gift of God. I can’t highly enough recommend Gila Manolson’s book, Hands Off! This May Be Love: God’s Gift for Enduring Relationships (which we proudly publish). This enjoyable combination of anecdotes, science and God’s word. It is a necessary read for anyone in junior high, high school or college, and those who love them. I invite you to read more here.