Honor: Rabbi Nachman

Rabbi Nachman teaches in “Advice”, that one can receive honor from God when he does not seek the honor of man. Discover these practical steps of Torah wisdom from Rabbi Nachman.

1) People should minimize their own dignity and give as much honor as they can to the Creator. One should avoid honor and make no attempt to win people’s admiration. Then he will be worthy of receiving honor from God, and no one will raise questions about whether he is really entitled to the respect he enjoys. But someone who chases after the respect and admiration of his fellow men will never be worthy of God’s honor. Even if he does attain a position of respect, people will constantly look at him askance and want to know who he is that he should be accorded such respect (Likutey Moharan I, 6:1)

2) The test of true repentance is when a person can allow himself to be abused and ridiculed in silence, patiently accepting all the insults which are thrown at him. Through this he reduces the flood in the left ventricle of the heart — this is the seat of the animal soul — and slaughters his evil inclination. Then he is worthy of the honor of God (Ibid. 2).

3) A person should guard God’s honor in all ways. He should be `vile and despised in his own eyes’ (cf. Psalms 15:4), accounting himself and his dignity as of no importance before the honor due to the Creator. Then he will be able to speak words of Torah that will radiate with light, illuminating for him all the aspects of himself that he needs to work on in order to achieve perfect repentance. Through this he will attain profound understanding of the depths of Torah (11:2).

4) The greatest revelation of God’s glory comes when those who were farthest of all from Him draw closer: then His Name is exalted and honored above and below, and His glory is magnified. It is a duty for everyone to make efforts to draw people closer to God. And no one should say, `How can I come closer to God seeing that I am so removed from Him because of my wrong-doing.’ On the contrary, the further away a person, the more God’s glory is exalted through him when he makes an effort to return and draw closer (14:2).

5) When people have respect for the righteous, honor is elevated to its source. One should be very sincere in the respect one gives them. This makes up for any flaw in his fear of God, and in the end he will attain peace (Ibid. 6).

6) Nobody should accept a position of leadership or power unless he has attained the level of absolute faith. There are people who although they believe in God still retain a residuum of superstition. Such people should not accept positions of leadership. A person may persuade himself that he has great love and pity for the world and this is why he wants to be in a position of leadership. But really he wants the glory for himself, even though he makes out that his motive is one of love and pity. This can lead to atheism and disbelief. But God in Heaven takes pity on the world, and the leadership is not allowed to fall into the hands of such people (8:3).

7) Those leaders and governments which show love and respect for the wise have chosen the firmest possible basis for their power. Love of the wise gives stability to leaders and governments. When a king or a ruler displays signs of hatred for the wise, it is a sign that Heaven has decreed that he should be brought down. For the world cannot endure without wisdom (Ibid. 4).

8) An old man who has forgotten his learning through no fault of his own should be accorded every respect. The very honor which is given to him will cause his forgetfulness to disappear and the vital soul, the Torah that he knew, will be revealed again. The darkness and harsh judgements will be put to flight and light, love, life and the wisdom of Torah will spread through the world (37:5).

9) We should also be very careful to give respect to the children of very ignorant, ordinary Jews. In certain cases the children of very ignorant people have souls that are very precious: this we can see from their Torah learning. If we see that they are learned in Torah it is a sure sign that they must have a very precious soul, and we should be careful to accord them honor and respect. Through this honor, the Torah that is hidden within them will be revealed more fully, and this gives strength to spiritual forces — form, light, wisdom, life, love and memory — as opposed to bodily forces — substance, desire, darkness and folly (Ibid. 7).

10) There are leaders who go by the name of rabbi but whose learning has been picked up from the `superficialities’ and `waste’ of Torah. They are unable to control even themselves, let alone other people. But they still have pretentions to greatness and seek to lead and guide the whole world. You should be very careful to accord them no recognition whatsoever so as not to add in any way to their power or authority. They themselves can be forgiven for what they do: they are no more than the victims of a strong lust for power. It is the people who give them credibility and power and who are prepared to accord them the title of rabbi who will have a heavy penalty to pay (61:2).

11) When rabbis lacking in integrity are ordained and given authority, it weakens the influence of the Holy Writings of the Jews, and the writings of the nations of the world become invested with power. Decrees are passed according honor and authority to these writings alone, and not to our writings, and forcing Jews to learn their literature. In the end, decrees of expulsion are passed against the Jewish people, and they are forced to move from places where they have dwelled by long tradition to places they have never been. This is a form of `exile from the Land of Israel’ (because places where Jews have lived for a long time have become sanctified with the holiness of the Land of Israel.) As a result, it becomes impossible for great souls to be born and brought into the world, and because of this the secret of astronomical calculation is taken from us and put into their hands instead, God forbid (Ibid.).

12) But when a Sage of true integrity is ordained and accorded the title of rabbi, our Scriptures are again invested with radiance and strength, and even the nations of the world submit to the authority of the writings of the Jews in governing their own affairs. Then the air is sanctified with the holiness of the air of the Land of Israel, and relief comes from the troubles which were brought about through the ordination of unworthy rabbis (Ibid.).

13) When some new honor comes to a person, it is something to be quite apprehensive about. At times honor is sent to a person as a prelude to his soul being taken. Therefore a person should always be careful to receive any honor in great holiness and only for the sake of God, not for his own benefit or enjoyment. Otherwise the honor could turn to be very harmful, and his soul could be taken, God forbid. The soul is very precious. One must guard it with the utmost care. One should pray to God that this new honor should not harm him in any way and that his soul should not be taken from him. The root and source of all the souls is in glory, and when a soul is taken, it is taken up into glory, which is its root (67:1).

14) Usually, however, the honor comes for good. For when a new soul comes to a man, it is clothed in honor. Thus when a person receives the honor as he should, he is able to receive the new soul which is clothed in it (Ibid.).

15) A greedy appetite is a blot upon the honor of God. God hides His face, and the world comes under the shadow of His harsh severity. Glory falls to the arrogant, who abrogate all the dignity to themselves. Power, kingship, authority and honor fall into the hands of the heathens, the wicked and the insolent, and when a situation arises where the Jewish people needs to take some firm action to ensure the survival of our holy faith, it is necessary to have recourse to their strength. But when we break the lust for food, the honor of God is vindicated and the insolent are left without power, authority or dignity. The countenance of God radiates to the world and the harsh judgements are broken (Ibid. 3).

16) Charity cleanses the stains upon God’s honor. Glory and power are taken from the Other Side and restored to the wise, who are the world’s true leaders (Ibid. 5).

17) In the morning prayers, when we reach the words `and You rule over all,’ it is customary to give charity in order to take glory and power from the hands of the Other Side and restore them to the forces of Holiness (Ibid. 7).

18) When honor is restored to the wise, who are the true leaders, at the beginning of their ascendancy there is likely to be factionalism and strife (Ibid. 6).

19) When some new honor comes to a person, he should do his utmost to cultivate the fear and love of God within himself in order to give birth to the new soul which comes to him clothed in this honor, to raise it and bring it to maturity (Ibid. 7).

20) By giving respect to an old man who has forgotten his learning, cool waters are drawn to revive the fainting soul. Giving such a person respect makes up for all the prayers which people say without sincerity, because it is prayers like these which cause the faintness of the soul (Ibid. 8).

21) For a Tzaddik it is very hard to be widely known. A Tzaddik who is revealed and famous has to bear much suffering on behalf of the people. However there are cases where it is the will of Heaven that a certain Tzaddik should be revealed and widely known (71).

22) When the leaders become arrogant, God sends people to make trouble for them and speak out against them in order to break their pride (95).

23) A person who wants honor is a fool (194).

24) The more a person lacks understanding, the more punctilious he is about any affronts to his dignity (202).

25) A person who conducts himself in office with honesty and purity will rise to greatness at the end of his days. Whatever the criteria of greatness in his particular time and place, he will be accorded this greatness (236).

26) One must be very cautious about entering any position of authority. This applies especially to those with fear of Heaven, who have a particularly strong desire to influence others. If they accept a position of authority they are in danger of losing the blessing of prophecy which they might have been able to attain through their awe of Heaven (Likutey Moharan II, 1:7).

27) There are people who impose themselves as leaders and rulers over our poor, bereft nation not because they have been appointed by Heaven but purely through their own arrogance and assertiveness. The sword of pride which they wield draws strength from the proselytes, who bring arrogance into the Jewish people. They can attain so much power that they can even exact penalties from those who do not wish to bow to their rule. But the correct phrase for this is not `exacting penalties’ but `causing damage,’ because ultimately they are a destructive force in the world. The arrogance of these leaders brings rampant immorality to the world. The only escape is by turning to the Guardians of the Earth (5:5).

28) The foundation of true spiritual leadership is love. No one can be a true leader unless he has genuine love for the Jewish people. But he must understand how to show this love. It is forbidden to show love to the wicked, to murderers and robbers. He must know how to guide and direct each individual along the path which will lead to his ultimate good. The essence of the love he must show to the Jewish people is to draw them from their sins. There is no greater love than this (7:1-3).

29) It is very dangerous for a Tzaddik to be revealed and widely known and to occupy a position of leadership. The danger is obvious in the case of one who is not fitted to the task and who wears a tallit which is not his own. But it is present even in the case of men of true stature who genuinely serve God. When they accept positions of leadership and teach Torah publicly, they are running the risk of falling into immorality, theft and murder with every step they take (18).

30) The only purpose of the entire creation is the revelation of God’s glory. This is why everything was created for the sake of man. Because the revelation of God’s glory depends entirely on man. Therefore when some new honor comes to a person, he must be scrupulous about not taking any of it for himself. He must make sure that he gives all the glory to God. In this way he is building and sustaining the world, because the whole world and all that is in it was created only for His glory (71).

31) A person who insults God’s honor falls from the mentality of the `Land of Israel,’ which is the source of true understanding and wisdom, to the mentality of `outside the Land.’ This is the root of strife and factionalism (Ibid.).

32) A person who is jealous of a friend who rises to greatness can lose his faith and turn into an atheist. One must be extremely careful about this (80).

33) In our times there is no one whose motive for seeking power is purely for the sake of Heaven. In previous generations there were such people. But today no one should seek out positions of power. All honor and authority should be avoided (Ibid.).

34) Anyone with a clear mind can see that all the affairs of this world are utterly futile and foolish. This is especially true of earthly prestige and power and fame. The truth is that they give no pleasure or satisfaction even in this world. They are always attended by suffering and abuse from other people (Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom 47).

Online English translation of Likutey Etzot
A compendium of Rabbi Nachman’s practical teachings on spiritual growth and devotion.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5766 / 2006

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