It is written in the Gemara (Eruvin 13b): כׇּל הַמְחַזֵּר עַל הַגְּדוּלָּה גְּדוּלָּה בּוֹרַחַת מִמֶּנּוּ
וְכׇל הַבּוֹרֵחַ מִן הַגְּדוּלָּה גְּדוּלָּה מְחַזֶּרֶת אַחֲרָיו (Anyone who pursues gedulah, gedulah
will flee from him, and anyone who flees from gedulah, gedulah
will pursue him). What exactly is gedulah? It is honor [כבוד, kavod],
dominion, power, etc. But if someone is trying to flee from kavod,
presumably because he doesn’t want it, why does Hashem give it to him? It seems
like Hashem is cursing him with something he doesn’t want. Does that make any
The answer is what R’ Nachman teaches (Likutei Moharan
6:1): כִּי צָרִיךְ כָּל אָדָם לְמַעֵט בִּכְבוֹד
עַצְמוֹ וּלְהַרְבּוֹת בִּכְבוֹד הַמָּקוֹם כִּי מִי שֶׁרוֹדֵף אַחַר הַכָּבוֹד
אֵינוֹ זוֹכֶה לִכְבוֹד אֱלֹקִים אֶלָּא לְכָבוֹד שֶׁל מְלָכִים (Everyone needs to minimize his own kavod
and maximize the kavod of the Omnipresent One, for he who pursues after kavod
will not merit the kavod of G‑d, but rather the kavod of kings).
There are two kinds of kavod, one whose root is from above, the other
whose root is from below. So to explain the teaching from Eruvin 13b,
the kind of kavod from which one should flee is not the same kind of kavod
that Hashem eventually bestows upon him.
The kavod that emanates from above comes only from
the Torah (Pirkei Avot 6:3): וְאֵין כָּבוֹד אֶלָּא
תוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר כָּבוֹד חֲכָמִים יִנְחָלוּ וּתְמִימִים יִנְחֲלוּ טוֹב וְאֵין
טוֹב אֶלָּא תוֹרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר כִּי לֶקַח טוֹב נָתַתִּי לָכֶם תּוֹרָתִי אַל
תַּעֲזֹב (Kavod is only Torah, as it
is said [Mishlei 3:35], ‘The sages will inherit kavod’, and it is said [Mishlei
28:10], ‘The wholesome shall
inherit good,’ and ‘good’ is only Torah, as it is said [Mishlei 4:2], ‘For I gave you a good teaching; do not forsake My Torah’).
And the Torah is nothing but the Tree of Life (Mishlei 3:18): עֵץ־חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ (It is a tree of life to those who grasp it). However, the kavod
that emanates from below comes from the Sitra Achra [Other Side], from
the side of impurity, and from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is
not eternal but temporal, and in a generation that has forsaken the sound
advice of ‘delay gratification’, this kind of kavod can be very
enticing. In the end though, it leads only to destruction and death. To
simplify things (perhaps at the risk of oversimplification): kavod that
is given has sanctity and wholeness, but if we crave kavod, we
contaminate it, corrupt it and give it over to the Sitra Achra.
What does it mean to maximize the kavod of Hashem? It
seems a bit abstract. Even if we grasp what it means, can we, i.e.
simple people like you and me, achieve it? And if we can, what is the practical
benefit down here in this fallen world?
Each morning during Pesukei d’Zimra we recite the
following (Divrei haYamin Aleph 16:28-29): הָבוּ
לַיי מִשְׁפְּחוֹת עַמִּים הָבוּ לַיי כָּבוֹד וָעֹז׃ הָבוּ לַיי כְּבוֹד
שְׁמוֹ (Give to Hashem, O
families of the nations, give to Hashem kavod and strength. Give to
Hashem the kavod due His name). Although we say these words every
morning, do we think about what we’re actually saying? By giving kavod
to Hashem we are declaring that we are not the sovereign; we are the subjects,
the subordinates. He is the king, not us. But even more than that, we are also
declaring that we want all nations of the world, not just the Jewish
Nation, to feel this way and to give kavod to Hashem. Why? What
difference does it make?
It is taught (Likutei Moharan 14:1): לְהַמְשִׁיךְ שָׁלוֹם בָּעוֹלָם צָרִיךְ לְהַעֲלוֹת כְּבוֹד
הַקָּדוֹשׁ־בָּרוּךְ־הוּא לְשָׁרְשׁוֹ הַיְנוּ לַיִּרְאָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב:
לְיִרְאָה אֶת הַשֵּׁם הַנִּכְבָּד
(To draw down peace into the world, it is necessary to raise the kavod
of the Holy One, blessed be He, to its root, i.e. to yirah, as it is
written [Devarim 25:58], ‘to revere [yirah] the honored Name’).
World peace will only be achieved when we put kavod back to where it is
supposed to be, back to its place, back to its source, which is in the place
called yirah, i.e. reverence. This is what we have explained above, i.e.
that we need to minimize our kavod, the kavod of kings, and to
maximize the kavod of Hashem. How? We start by fleeing from receiving
earthly kavod and proceed to giving kavod to Hashem. So how do we
Since all proper kavod emanates from the Torah, we
shouldn’t be surprised that the answer to this question has something to do
with the Torah. Continuing the teaching (L.M. 14:1): וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לְהַעֲלוֹת אֶת הַכָּבוֹד אֶלָּא עַל־יְדֵי תּוֹרַת חֶסֶד (It is only possible to raise the kavod
[of Hashem] through the ‘Torah of loving kindness [chesed]’). This Torah
of chesed is mentioned in אֵשֶׁת־חַיִל [Eishet Chayil, the Woman of Valor] which we sing every Erev Shabbat (Mishlei 31:26): פִּיהָ פָּתְחָה בְחׇכְמָה וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד עַל־לְשׁוֹנָהּ (She opens her mouth with wisdom and the
Torah of chesed is on her lip). What is this Torah of chesed? Two
answers are given in the Gemara in Succah 49b. The first is that it
refers to תּוֹרָה לִשְׁמָהּ, i.e. Torah learned for its own sake without any ulterior
motives or personal agendas. The second answer is that it refers to תּוֹרָה לְלַמְּדָהּ,
Torah learned in order to teach it to others. We experience this Torah of chesed
fully only when we combine these two aspects. How come? Because when we fulfill
these two aspects with purity of mind, people who are farther away from Hashem
can be brought into a closer relationship with Him. No greater chesed
exists than helping others come closer to Hashem, and no greater kavod
can be given to Hashem than when those who were once far away come near to Him.
We see this with Yitro, the former high priest of Egypt who converted and
became a member of the Jewish Nation. After he learned what Hashem had done for
the Jewish People in bringing them out of Egyptian bondage, he said (Shemot
18:10-11): בָּרוּךְ יְיָ…עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי
כִּי־גָדוֹל יְהֹוָה מִכׇּל־הָאֱלֹהִים
(Blessed be Hashem…Now I know that Hashem is greater than all the gods). This
is the essence of the words in Divrei haYamin Aleph 16:28-29.
The challenge is not to overwhelm such people or to drive
them further away. R’ Nachman teaches (L.M. 14:3) that the way to do
this is by reaching out to them in the place where they are, i.e. the living
waters of Torah must go out and flow to them where they are, as it is written (Mishlei
5:16): יָפוּצוּ מַעְיְנֹתֶיךָ חוּצָה בָּרְחֹבוֹת
פַּלְגֵי־מָיִם (Your springs
of water will flow outside; streams of water in the streets). This is an aspect
of Moshe Rabbeinu, the good shepherd who left the flock to bring back the one
kid that fled (Shemot Rabbah 2:2): כְּשֶׁהָיָה
משֶׁה רַבֵּינוּ עָלָיו הַשָּׁלוֹם רוֹעֶה צֹאנוֹ שֶׁל יִתְרוֹ בַּמִּדְבָּר
בָּרַח מִמֶּנּוּ גְּדִי וְרָץ אַחֲרָיו עַד שֶׁהִגִּיעַ לַחֲסִית כֵּיוָן
שֶׁהִגִּיעַ לַחֲסִית נִזְדַּמְּנָה לוֹ בְּרֵכָה שֶׁל מַיִם וְעָמַד הַגְּדִי
לִשְׁתּוֹת כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִגִּיעַ משֶׁה אֶצְלוֹ אָמַר אֲנִי לֹא הָיִיתִי יוֹדֵעַ
שֶׁרָץ הָיִיתָ מִפְּנֵי צָמָא עָיֵף אַתָּה הִרְכִּיבוֹ עַל כְּתֵפוֹ וְהָיָה
מְהַלֵּךְ (When Moshe
Rabbeinu, may peace be upon him, was the shepherd of Yitro’s flock in the
desert, a kid [גדי, baby goat/sheep] ran away from him, and he ran after it until
it reached a shady place. When it reached the shady place, it came across a
spring of water, and it stood there to drink. When Moshe arrived, he said, ‘I
didn’t know that you ran away because you were thirsty. You are so tired!’ He
put the kid on his shoulder and went back [to the flock]). This is the behavior
of a true shepherd, one who displays only compassionate understanding and care,
as explained (L.M. 14:5): וְאֵין אָדָם זוֹכֶה
לְתוֹרָה אֶלָּא עַל־יְדֵי שִׁפְלוּת
(A person does not merit Torah except through lowliness [shiflut]). It
was in that merit that Moshe Rabbeinu became the shepherd of Hashem’s flock (Bamidbar
12:3): וְהָאִישׁ מֹשֶׁה עָנָו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם (And the man Moshe was very humble, more
so than any other man). One’s ability to raise the kavod of Hashem by
teaching Torah to those who are far away and bringing them close to Hashem is
directly dependent on his level of humility (his willingness to extend himself
to help others) and shiflut (his ability to see others as greater than
he). The more these attributes flourish, the greater success the person will
have in elevating Hashem’s kavod to its proper place, i.e. others will
come to revere Hashem more and more.
These traits can’t be faked because Hashem can’t be fooled.
This means that one must revere Hashem from one’s heart and not just with one’s
lips, as it is written (Yeshaya 29:13): וַיֹּאמֶר
אֲדֹנָ-י יַעַן כִּי נִגַּשׁ הָעָם הַזֶּה בְּפִיו וּבִשְׂפָתָיו כִּבְּדוּנִי
וְלִבּוֹ רִחַק מִמֶּנִּי וַתְּהִי יִרְאָתָם אֹתִי מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה׃ (And Adon-ai said, Because this people
approached Me with its mouth, and with its lips gave Me kavod, and its
heart was far from Me, their reverence of Me was like a commandment of men,
learned by rote). If one’s own reverence is not embedded in one’s heart, then
he’s really just seeking after the kavod of kings and he won’t be
raising the kavod of Hashem to its proper place.
We now come to the main point. Suppose a person learns Torah
in order to teach, and he’s humble and lowly, and he reveres Hashem from his
heart, and he spreads forth (or supports the efforts of those who spread forth)
Torah outward to where the sheep have wandered—how does peace come into the
world through this (L.M. 14:1)? R’ Nachman explains that when kavod
is returned to its proper place in yirah, i.e. when people no longer
seek their own kavod, but
rather seek to increase the kavod of Hashem, inner peace is produced (L.M.
14:8): אָז נִשְׁלָם פִּגְמֵי הַיִּרְאָה וְאָז
זוֹכֶה לְשָׁלוֹם…בְּאַתְרָא דְּאִית דְּחִילָא תַּמָּן תִּשְׁתַּכַּח
שְׁלִמְתָּא כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב כִּי אֵין מַחְסוֹר לִירֵאָיו (Then the blemish in yirah is made whole/complete [nishlam] and then he merits peace [shalom]…In the place where there is reverence
there is wholeness/completeness, as it is written [Tehillim 34:10] ‘Those who revere Him lack nothing’). If you lack nothing, you are whole, which
is the essence of shalom.
It is this inner peace that enables a person to pray, as it
is written about Channah (Shmuel Aleph 1:13): וְחַנָּה
הִיא מְדַבֶּרֶת עַל־לִבָּהּ
(And Channah spoke from her heart). To complement what we have already learned
(L.M. 14:8): עַל־יְדֵי הַיִּרְאָה זָכְתָה
לִתְפִלָּה כִּי עִקַּר הַיִּרְאָה הוּא בַּלֵּב (Through yirah she merited prayer since the essence of yirah
is in the heart). Finally, through prayer world peace is achieved, as R’
Nachman concludes there: וְעַל־יְדֵי תְּפִלָּה זוֹכֶה
לַשָּׁלוֹם הַכְּלָלִי הַיְנוּ שְׁלֵמוּת הָעוֹלָמוֹת כִּי עַל שֵׁם זֶה תְּפִלָּה
נִקְרָא קָרְבָּן עַל שֵׁם קֵרוּב הָעוֹלָמוֹת לִשְׁלֵמוּתָן (And through prayer, one merits general peace, i.e. perfection
of the worlds, and for this reason prayer is called a sacrifice [korban] because the worlds are brought close [keiruv] to their perfection).
In conclusion, let’s work on fleeing from the kavod
of kings. It brings nothing but conflict, misery, war, destruction and death.
If you doubt this, just look at the news—so much suffering because of the kavod
of kings. Instead, let us seek to find and support ways to increase the kavod
of Hashem, for through this we will merit world peace with much happiness,
prosperity and true freedom for all eternity.