Friday, January 16, 2009

A Fool for Honor

Our Rabbi’s teach that one exclusionary statement following another is inclusive. The Chidushei HaRim zt”l explains this principle figuratively: “diminishment followed by diminishment is only meant to make great.” We are made great in the eyes of others to the degree that we minimize ourselves.
Rav Eliyahu Lopian zt”l once told about a big baal chessed who was a simple man. Years earlier, he had saved the life of the governor and this gave him a degree of influence not enjoyed by other Jews. The man’s relationship with the governor enhanced his ability to help people in need, and even allowed him to secure army exemptions for many yeshivah students. Unfortunately, the man’s efforts on behalf of other Jews were matched by an equally strong drive to be honored publicly. He rationalized that more prestige would further his efforts on behalf of the community.
Once, when he was visiting Slabodka, he began to boast about his accomplishments. He crowed, “You batlanim should give someone like me shishi—even the Chofetz Chayim agrees!”
He then related that he had met with the gadol ha’dor and complained that since he didn’t receive the honor he deserved, his ability to help the community was compromised.
The Chofetz Chayim offered an explanation. “Why do Chazal say that honor flees before all who pursue it, and that it pursues all who run from it? Why do we need the word all? It would be enough to just say “those who pursue it,” or “those who run from it!” Apparently, the extra word “all” teaches that honor flees from everyone who chases it, even one who deserves honor as much as you do. And anyone who flees from it, even someone as unworthy as myself, is pursued by it!”
The foolish man exclaimed, “You see, even the Chofetz Chayim admits that I am worthy of more honor!”
Rav Eliyahu concluded: “Just see how much a person can make a fool of himself for a little kavod!”

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