Ask The Rabbi

Yes, Your Honor

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Honor

Name@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Should one accept the Valedictorian award (an award for the best academic work) when offered to him by his school? On one hand, it says in the mishna (Avot 4:28) that "jealosy, lust and honor remove a person from the world." But I once read that at times it is proper for a person to accept an award given to him. Thank you very, very much.


Dear Name@Withheld,

There's a difference between pursuing honor and accepting honor.

Jealosy, lust and honor remove a person from this world by capturing his focus. By pursuing these ends, his aim eventually becomes the fulfilment of the jealously, lust, or honor. At that point, the person no longer is using this world for that which it was created — to come closer to G-d.

Receiving honor will not in and of itself remove a person from the world, unless from there he is pulled into pursuing it.

Sometimes it is particularly proper to accept an honor. When a specific honor is useful for your future (for example, to help you get a job), then the acceptance is considered a normal part of the effort involved in achieving that particular goal.

Receiving honor can also be an inspiration for others to do good. For example, when one donates money to a charitable organization, allowing the donation to be known will inspire others to do similar good deeds. (Note: One should not publicize a charitable gift without the consent of the recipient.)

Sometimes one's honor will give pride to his parents. Through this, one can fulfil the mitzvah (commandment) of honoring one's parents.

If you were the one offered the Valedictorian award, congratulations! Unless your sole purpose is to have more and more honor heaped upon you, accepting the honor is fine. The right attitude is not to think of the honor as an end in itself, but rather as a means to an end.


 
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