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Honor and Self Esteem

Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9 )

by Rabbi Ron Jawary

"I will honor you greatly" (Numbers 22:17). We sometimes think that honor is something we deserve for the things we own, the clothes we wear, and the cars we drive, yet the Torah teaches us that true honor has nothing to do with those things.

In fact, we are told that those who chase that kind of illusory honor are, in actuality, chasing it away. True honor is found in how we relate to others; it is having the inner dignity and self-respect to graciously and willingly give others the respect they deserve. It is the ability to always find the good in others and to respect them for it.

A person should try to cultivate a sense of humility within himself. Doing so opens us up to see others for who they are: a reflection of the Divine. The Ramban (13th Century) teaches us that we should always try to see others in a positive light despite their shortcomings, and to view every individual as if he is bigger than you. The Ramban, himself, exemplified such characteristics, yet this never detracted from his self-worth and inner strength. In fact, he had such inner strength that he succeeded in defending the Torah against the Catholic Church in a four-part debate before the king of Spain. He earned the respect of the royal court, yet never grew arrogant or detracted from the honor he directed towards others.

The healthier our self-image, the more we will be able to see the good in others, as the mishna says, "Who is the honorable person? One who gives honor to others" (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1).


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