Enticement of the Yetzer Hara #12: To Love Being Praised and Acquiring a Good Name

** Author's Introduction **
(with classic commentaries)
from Chovos Halevavos - Duties of the Heart
by Rabeinu Bahya ibn Paquda zt'l (originally published 1080 CE)

english translation by Rabbi Yosef Sebag (DafYomiReview.com) 

12 - TO LOVE BEING PRAISED AND ACQUIRING A GOOD NAME


(Pas Lechem: In the previous case, he spoke of the yetzer's enticements to a man, that from today on, he will do his deeds with intent to receive benefit from human beings, and that it is sufficient what he did until now to have intent for the service of G-d. Now, he comes to entice him that he can continue to have intent for the service of G-d, only that he should reveal his deeds and not conceal them (so that human beings will also observe him - TL). Thus he will gain from this praise of people and it will not damage his service of G-d in the least.

Manoach Halevavos: In the previous case, he spoke of the need to pay back his debts to human beings. That since he has payed back his debts to G-d sufficiently, according to the yetzer, he should endeavor to pay his debts to human beings, and to do deeds for their benefit alone which are not related to the service of G-d. Thus, they will love him and honor him. Here, the yetzer abandoned this. He tries instead to induce him to do the service of G-d in such a way that human beings see him so that he attains honor and a good name.)

When the yetzer gives up trying to entice you in this way, he will try to entice from the angle of love of praise and of acquiring a good name in this world. He will say to you:
"I rejoice at your service of G-d with good trust, in that you have placed all your matters to Him, and have freed your heart from [the thought] that any created being can possibly benefit you without G-d. Now you are truly trusting in G-d wholeheartedly. It is not proper for you to conceal from people the high degree of piety you have attained. Rather it is proper now that you have ruled over your inclination and overcome your base desires to show your piety to others, and to reveal your heart to them. In this way you will be honored by them in this world, and will have good name and a good remembrance among them, as the verse says: "I will give them in My house and in My walls a memorial and a name, better than sons and daughters" (Yeshaya 56:5). It also says: "I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the land" (II Shmuel 7:9). Additionally, so that they will learn from your deeds, and you will receive reward for them. Hence, don't hide your deeds from them except those things that cannot be shown to people. Therefore, you will receive honor and a good name in this world and good reward in the next". 
(Pas Lechem"you have ruled over your inclination" - forced yourself to steer from the traps of evil.
"and overcome your base desires" - to sanctify yourself also with the permitted things, namely, the trait of chasidut (see the book Path of the Just). And since it requires great strengthening to distance from the permitted, he wrote "overcome".)

Answer him: "what will I benefit from praises of people, and from a good name among them, when I know that I am lacking in my obligations to the Creator? What benefit can I have from their honor and esteem, when they are incapable of helping me or shielding me from harm? In this regard, aren't they like plants and animals (who cannot benefit or harm me without G-d's decree as explained in gate 4 - ML). And maybe if I have these intents in my deeds, I will not find favor in their eyes. Rather, they will see me as flatterer and I will become an object of disgust and contempt, and the result will be that I will lose my good deeds in that I did not have intent to G-d and will also fail in what I had hoped to attain from people in this world. 
(Pas Lechem"I will lose my good deeds in that I did not have intent to G-d" - I will lose my deeds regarding the reward of the next world. Because any intent, whether a little or a lot, which strays a little bit to something other than G-d is necessarily a form of hypocrisy and ruins the reward, even though his primary act was for the service of G-d.)

It is said of one of the kings of Israel who was asked: "how did you like the (torah) reading of the Chazan? His voice was pleasing and he was an expert in the chanting of the cantillation notes." The king answered them: "How could I like his reading. He was reading it only so that it would be pleasing to me, and to find favor in my eyes. But if he had intent for pleasing the Creator alone - then it would have been pleasing to me".

We can likewise say about all those leading the congregation in prayers, and the chazanim who compose new piyutim (liturgical prayers), whose intent is to find favor in the eyes of men and not of G-d - that their prayers are not acceptable to the Creator.

Answer him further: "Maybe, if I receive honor in this world for my deeds, nothing of my reward will be left in the next world, because I received it already in this world".

It is said of one of the pious who entered a market to buy something. He came to one of the shops to buy it and the shopkeeper's neighbor told the shopkeeper: "give in to him, and do his will since he is a pious scholar". The pious man answered him: "Thank you but I don't need special treatment. I came to buy with my money, not with my torah knowledge". He refused to buy from that shop, and instead went to another shop where he was not recognized (since it is forbidden to benefit from the torah - TL).

(Answer the yetzer also:) "And that which you brought from the verse: 'I will make for you a great name..', this is just like the other things people aspire to in this world, such as wealth, honor, which the Creator bestows on His servants when His wisdom deems this proper, as written "And I have also given you that which you have not asked for, both riches and honor" (Melachim 3:13), and also "long life is in its right, to its left, wealth and honor" (Mishlei 3:16). But the pious do not intend for any of these things in their service, rather their sole intent is for the Creator who bestows good to who He wishes, among his servants or others, believers or non-believers, as His wisdom dictates, as written "wealth and honor is Yours"(Divrei HaYamim 29:12).

(Answer further:) "And what is this world? (since the benefit from honor is only in this world - TL) Even if my name becomes known to the whole world, what is the measure of my days? Even if my name does go out to part of the world, certainly my memory will reach an even smaller part, and even then it will fade away after a short time and be forgotten as if it had never existed. And scripture says: 'The sons of men are but vanity, and men of distinction are a falsehood; were they to be put on a scale, together they would equal vanity' (Tehilim 62:10), and 'his breath leaves, he returns to his dust' (Tehilim 146:4), and 'there is no memory of the early ones' (Koheles 1:11)."

"Therefore, for me to trouble myself for this world, and put my thoughts in it, is clear pettiness and a disgraceful mistake on my part. It is told of one of the pious that asked his friend: 'have you achieved equality?, he answered 'on what?', he replied 'is it equal in your eyes whether you are honored or insulted?'. He answered: 'No'. He said: 'if so, you have not yet arrived. Keep trying, maybe you will reach this level, because it is the highest of the levels of the pious, and the most desirable of qualities.'" 

(Translator: Here is an excerpt from the book Shaarei Kedusha by Rabbi Chaim Vital (Part 4 Gate 3) on the trait of "equality" :
...After a man has merited to the clinging (of his thoughts to G-d), he will merit to the secret of 'equality', and if he merits the secret of 'equality', he will merit to the secret of 'meditation', and after he has merited to the secret of 'meditation', he will merit Ruach HaKodesh, and from this to prophecy, which means, he will prophecy and say over future events.

And on the matter of "equality", Rebi Avner said to me: A wise man, among the misbodedim (meditators) came to me seeking that I accept him among the misbodedim. The master said to him: "blessed are you my son to G-d, your intentions are good. However let me know if you reached the level of 'equality' or not." He answered: "Rebbi explain your words." He said "For two men, if one of them honors you and the second insults you, are they equal in your eyes?"

He answered: "no my master. Because I feel pleasure and contentment from the one who honors me, and pain from the one who insults me, but I don't bear any grudge against him."

He answered "My son, go in peace, because as long as you haven't reached 'equality' until your soul does not feel the honor from someone who honors you, nor the embarrassment from someone who shames you, you're not prepared to have your thoughts tied with the supernal when you come and meditate. Go and humble more your heart in truth until you have reached 'equality', then you'll be able to meditate.

The matter of equality, comes through the clinging of one's thoughts to G-d, may He be blessed. Because the clinging to G-d causes that man to not look at others' honoring him, nor at their shaming him. He will also not be worried about forces of evil. You can see when G-d was with [King Shaul], and Shaul's thoughts were clinging to Him, he removed the sorcerers from the land, and similarly, he did not care when the evil men insulted him when he was coronated as king over Israel (Shmuel I 11). But when G-d left him, he transformed into a different person. He went after the sorcerers (Shmuel I 28:7), and also he became furious with anger on the righteous Kohanim which did not sin against him and he spilt their blood for nothing...And if so, a man must first do a great humbling in order to merit the hisdabkus (clinging to G-d) and this comes through fulfilling the mitzvos with all his strength. And also to cling absolutely to the trait of humility, that his eyes should be below and his heart above.)

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