A good name – Yated.com
It is obvious in the Jewish world that a good reputation is a good thing to have. Not for us careless, “Do what you want and who cares about the consequences?” attitude that some lost souls call freedom. We to do worrying about the consequences, especially when it comes to our standing with the people around us.
We want to be highly appreciated by those we respect and, interestingly, even those we don’t think much about. We care about what other people think of us, pretty much on every level. We are all reputable aspirants.
Chazal tell us that a good name is the highest crown a person can wear. So how, you will ask me, do we go about acquiring one? If it’s such an exalted crown, it can’t be such an easy thing to put in your shopping bag and take with you, can it?
Acquiring a good name might not be as easy as squeezing a cantaloupe and dropping it in your cart, but it is definitely doable. And the best part is that we can make this purchase while going about our ordinary lives. No need for classes, diets or special training. Day after day, even minute by minute, opportunities are presented to us to polish yet another gem in this coveted crown. Here’s how.
One of the most remarkable features of gedolim has been their consistency. Another word for this is consistency. While the rest of us work under the handicap of our moods and whims, great men and women train themselves to control their moods and banish whims from their repertoires entirely.
“But I am not a gadolnor likely to become so one day, ”you protest. Well, here’s the good news: each of us, in our little world, has the capacity to be big. It may not be nationwide greatness coupled with exalted spiritual personality, wisdom, and tremendous leadership. It may just be modest greatness, which illuminates one’s personal circle and, in turn, helps those who share that circle on their own path to greatness. But who said it was a small thing?
Consistency in our avoda Hashem is something we can all achieve. Just as we eat without fail three times a day and lay our heads on our pillows every night, the spiritual work entrusted to us deserves no less, and benefits us much more. One can skip a meal and even a night’s sleep without any long-term consequences. But every failure davening or a overlooked opportunity for a mitzvah is a loss of the longest duration. The eternal kind.
All we need to do is establish a mindset that places our avoda on a par with our physical self-maintenance. Put this way, it sounds laughable. Who really believes that their physical self is more important than their divine soul? Unfortunately, what we to believe and where we put our energies can sometimes be two very different things. As I had reason to mention before in these pages, our bodies are much more insistent than our silences. neshamos. Our bodies are screaming, “Feed me!” Our souls whisper the same message, but it is a message that we must be very careful to hear.
If we put on our spiritual hearing aids, we can pick up on these weak calls. The Neshomah thirsts for a regular diet of Torah, mitzvot, Well middos and chesed. Not just every now and then, but every day. Let’s give him what he needs. Let’s put these vital things into our spiritual diet plan and establish an unalterable rhythm for our days. A rhythm that includes all the components necessary for our Neshomah good health continues, in this world and in the next.
My own father, z ”l, pupil of some of the greats yeshivot of pre-war Europe, never chose to teach or lead others, except by his remarkable example. Her life was calm and consistent avoda Hashem, coupled with pleasant demeanor that made him loved by those around him. If people agree with you, Pirkei Avos tells us that’s a pretty good sign that Hashem is too. At my father’s place levayah, the staff of the funeral room were surprised when they had to open the large rear of the chapel to accommodate the overflowing crowd. Hundreds of people had flocked to pay their last respects to this great no-gadol. Somehow, they could guess the stature behind the modest facade. What was his secret?
One of the people who paid a shiva call put his finger on the button. “I saw your father walking past my house to shul every morning and every evening. I could set a clock near him.
Consistency. The mark of greatness.
And then there is the opposite road to a good name. A person can live a simple and ordinary life for many years, until they do a great thing that turns them into someone who will be remembered forever.
We think of Sara Schenirer. While I’m sure she also served Hashem with dedication and consistency, that is not what she is primarily remembered for. Her claim to fame, and the golden and unassailable reputation she has earned, is the unique and brilliant achievement we associate with her name. Kiss Yaakov.
We ordinary people can follow in his footsteps. In our own narrow lives and in the wider world of our communities, we can dare to notice and fill a need among our people. You may be lucky enough to fill a need that helps a lot. Or maybe the impact of our action will be felt by one person. But I promise you: this person will never forget. And gradually, from that individual to his family, and from there to the rest of the world, your reputation will spread. Kindness is never lost.
Interestingly, the good reputation you earn may not even be tied to particularly strenuous or courageous effort. Something that you do in an almost casual manner, just because you are a decent person, can earn you the crown of approval and admiration from others. You don’t have to be a superhero to be heroic.
In these desolate times, many people who live in the public eye feel compelled to provide a narrative. They can be very creative, and the price they charge for their creativity is your willingness to subscribe to the self-written story of their life. If they to say they’re good, they expect you to believe it. Plus: They expect you to swallow all of their self-glorification.
Because we are guided by a divine document from the Creator, whose seal is eme, we were given a fully functional truth sensor. We can smell the emptiness of people who swell and brag. In classical work Pride and Prejudice, we are presented with two contrasting characters, about whom another character says: “One has all the goodness, while the other has all the appearance. I think each of us is able to discern the difference between real goodness and the appearance of it. Our integrated eme-the meters can pick up the nauseating smell of the fake, yet well disguised.
So let’s train ourselves to be consistent in our spiritual endeavors, knowing that every repeated act of kindness and connection to Hashem will reap the richest reward of all.
Let us be ready to seize the opportunities of greatness as they present themselves to us and to seize them.
And let’s learn to tell the difference between true goodness and the mere appearance of it.
So that the right people, including ourselves, may bow their heads in grateful humility to accept the highest crown of all.