What happened to respect for authority?

What happened to respect for authority?

Officer Miosotis Familia was buried last week.  Her family, including her now-motherless three children, remain immersed in grief.  She was a 12-year police veteran with the Anti-Crime unit.  On the fateful morning of July 5th, she was innocently sitting in a police vehicle in the Bronx.  The perpetrator (who had been in and out of prison for years) came up to the car, pointed a revolver and blasted without warning.  He was himself shot and killed by the police within a few minutes.

Have we learned anything from this tragic murder of a New York City police officer?

I look at this tragedy and I am concerned with the larger issue of disregard and disrespect for authority. 

Many people deem authority to be politically incorrect and undesirable.


I think authority is important.  Authority is the foundation of society, community and family.  To become healthy, functioning adults, children must have authority.  They blossom when parents are in charge, establishing rules and expectations, doling out consequences as needed.  I’m not advocating authoritarianism—parents must be loving but firm.

I see many parents treat their children as peers—never establishing themselves as the ones in charge. The kids have protracted childhoods and adolescence.  The current generation has been called the “snowflake generation.”  Why?  Because each person is unique.  Each person is special.  Each person is an individual.  And when you touch one – or have some kind of expectation of them – they melt immediately. 


Here’s what I see: these snowflakes are not happy people.

Family harmony, parents and children all benefit from structure and authority. A child who respects authority is happy, feels safe and protected and knows he can spread his wings and fly.

Further, respecting parents and authority is fundamental to loving and respecting G-d and having awe of heaven.   How does the parent, who is the child’s authority figure, prime a child for a relationship with G-d?  G-d is an abstract concept to children.  In His infinite wisdom, G-d created parents here on Earth.  Each child enters into a dependent relationship with authority figures who simultaneously give him both unconditional love and firm authority.  Through this dependent relationship with parents, we teach children compassion and respect for rules.


Part of a parent’s job is to transition children from an innocent view of parents as saviors and heroes to forming their own lifelong dynamic relationship with the One Up Above. Respect for parents is so essential that it is written in Kiddushin 30b that when a child honors parents, it’s as though he has honored G-d Himself.


Judaism is emphatic that we are all created “B’Tzelem Elokim” – In the image of G-d.  We treat every person with kindness and respect as they, too, are created in G-d’s image.


Respect for authority goes well beyond the family.  Government promulgates laws which are intended for our good.  If we don’t agree, we can express our opposing opinions.


And when we have a hard time with people with whom we just don’t agree—in any context—we must still treat them with respect.  We are all created in G-d’s image.


Respect for authority will make our families more harmonious, our kids healthier and this world a happier, safer place for all of us.