Society and Perfection

Rabbi Israel Chait

Written by a student

There is a mistake in this society which is based on the false notion that ostentatiousness is a good. People are convinced that through fame one achieves a great good. Judaism holds that a person is worse off when famous. We have a prayer which is so beautiful that we attach it to the Shmoneh Essray:


My God, guard my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceit. To those who curse me, let my soul remain silent and my soul be like dust to all, open my heart to Your Torah, then I will pursue Your commandments. As for those who design evil against me, quickly nullify their counsel and disrupt their design. 

This is a recognition that man’s evil takes place through his verbalization. Speech expresses and satisfies man’s instincts: ego, aggression, sexual desires, etc. Speech is the medium through which man satisfies all his instincts. This is why Lashon Hara is the worst thing.


To those who curse me, let my soul remain silent.


This means that if an entire society curses you, you should be quiet. This is the proper level. One should be unconcerned with what society says. A perfected person needs only to walk in the proper path and that is sufficient for him. He needs nothing more [he does not need society].


…and my soul be like dust to all


This is an unbelievable prayer. This means that a person should want one thing: to be alone in the world of reality and not care about anyone. Others should not affect a person whatsoever. Chazal say that King David was persecuted not only by evil people, but even by Torah giants of his generation, but he did not care. This prayer shows the ultimate level of the person living in the world of reality and not society.


…and my soul be like dust to all


If a person truly desires this, that it does not disturb him [that society thinks nothing of him, for he thinks nothing of society] and he does not care about what people say about him, [this discard for society’s approval], this is a prerequisite for greater attachment to Torah, as the next statement says:


…open my heart to Your Torah, then I will pursue Your commandments.


To feel as dust is the basis [for greater attachment to Torah]. That desire to be satisfied and happy, even though others view him as dust, will drive him more towards living a Torah life, learning for learning sake alone. And the Torah says so:


He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk modestly with your God (Micah 6:8).