Friday, May 23, 2008

The Biggest Aveira According To My Father

What is the biggest aveira according to my father?

Putting up a plaque or award that you received on the wall for others to see.

From an early age, this idea was ground into me and I have never been able to shake it. When I was recently honored and given a large framed plaque for my performance at work, I simply took it home and put it in the closet. Acting according to my father's logic, I knew that I didn't need to display a signed certificate to attest to the fact that I am a good worker since I know inherently that I am.

The only honor or plaque that I care to display is the yarmulke on my head. Without me even having to say a single word, it tells everyone who sees me that I do not seek to take away any honor from Hashem, I only seek to bring Him honor.

I have found that all my thoughts on true humility, however, fly totally in the face of the culture of my workplace. On one hand, I have the teaching of the Degel Machaneh Ephraim who said that humility is a prerequisite to truth. And on the other hand, I have co-workers who exhort me to display my new plaque just as they do on the "Love Me" walls of their offices and cubicles.

I know better than to confuse low self-image and humility. I know that I AM worthy of putting up the plaque. It is just not my nature to do so.

In just one simple sentence, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz provided the rationale why my plaque will remain in the closet:

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."


At May 23, 2008 at 8:15:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a beautiful post and I'm glad that you found that quote meaningful.

I'm not sure that I agree with your conclusion, though. You took an all-or-nothing approach when a middle-of-the-road mehalech might be better.

If someone writes me a letter thanking me for helping their son, should I not keep it where I can see it to give me chizuk?? Recognition is a human need, after all. Even if not for others, at least for yourself.

I am always wary of kanoim who shout about tzniyus all day long, as I suspect that they think about women far too much. A real tzadik doesn't have time for all of this.

I would not leave your plaque it in the closet. You may not want to place it in your hallway entrance, but you should consider doing so in a more subtle space -- where you can see it and get inspired to similar acts of chesed in the future.

My wife always asks me how I have such thick skin that I ignore some of the nasty comments that some people post on my site -- or others -- about me or my work. I always tell her that I never let the compliments change who I am, so therefore the insults don't bother me much.

So, post the plaque -- just don't let your life revolve around it.

At May 23, 2008 at 8:58:00 AM EDT, Blogger DixieYid (يهودي جنوبي) said...


Congratulations on your honor.

And I'm also happy to see Rabbi Horowitz's comments. Perhaps in your office, seeing the plaque might remind others of the kiddush Hashem that you make at work and it would be marbeh k'vod Shomayim.

As Rabbi Horowtitz wrote in Mishpacha Magazine this week, there are so many Chilul Hashems going on by frum Jews in the world, that every bit of added kvod Shomayim for our children and other adults to see is quite needed.

-Dixie Yid

At May 23, 2008 at 9:05:00 AM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Thanks for your feedback, Rabbi Horowitz and Dixie Yid. You both make some great points.

It just goes against my very nature....

At May 23, 2008 at 11:38:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, I found your blog through someone who advertized theirs (ironic given this post!)

Just wanted to say... I think it depends on your job. I take quite a lot of comfort in looking at the plaques in my doctor's office! I want to know that they have been recognized as among the best. So there's a difference between advertising for yourself (and your own ego) and advertising for others (which could benefit your work and work relations).

In high school I was involved in something for which I was lucky enough to be awarded several times. My first awards I kept on our mantle at home but eventually I got tired of them and stacked them in the garage. When my coach was over for dinner he saw the awards as we were pulling out of the driveway to drive him home and he finally believed me that I was involved out of love for the activity, not a competitive nature! Eventually I gave them all to the school... but I found since then I've started to miss them. One or two to remember where I devoted so many hours of my life and to symbolize all those memories would mean a lot. But at the end of the day I tend to find that I had awards because I happened to participate in an activity that gave awards, not because I deserved them more than someone who worked all year long for one science fair.

Sorry, that was longer than I meant it to be! Anyway, this really gave me something to think about... thank you!

At May 23, 2008 at 12:04:00 PM EDT, Blogger Long Beach Chasid said...

Its been awhile since HK"B connected us spiritially through blogs but its back again b"H. I had once read a story of this Israeli Army Officer who was considered clinically dead,stood before the heavenly court and granted his life back. Long story short, he said that the Prosecuting Angel's biggest criticism was this award he hung in his home in honor of a large sum of tzeddakah he had given. I got an award last week and jokingly said I was going to get it framed in a huge gold frame tripple matted. i did prop it up and now that I read this post Im defiantly going home and taking it down.

At May 23, 2008 at 1:54:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in 12th grade our class bought a plaque for our Teacher as a gift (it was customary for classes to buy something, but nobody had ever bought a plaque before. One bochur thought it was a great idea and so he collected the money and arranged it – don’t ask me why). We brought it to his house and he thanked us and hung it up on the spot. A while later, one of my classmates (who thought that it was an incredibly foolish idea all along) asked him about it (and somewhat apologized for the foolishness of the gift), but the teacher said:

“Don’t apologize -- I still have it hanging on a wall at home! You see, my first thought was that I know what I am, and I know my shortcomings. I don’t think I deserve any kind of award or plaque – and what kind of pompous jerk would I be to hang such a plaque in my house for all to see? So the day after you guys gave it to me I was planning to take it down. Then I thought about the fact that you went through the effort and expense of buying it, and that it’s important to recognize efforts and appreciation expressed by others, so I figured I should leave it up for a week. After that I took it down. But a little voice said to me, “You’re really only talking it down because you feel guilty that you don’t deserve it.” After that I put it in a room in my house that other people generally don’t visit, but where I see it - as a reminder that I SHOULD make sure to deserve it.”

At May 23, 2008 at 2:05:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: Both you and Rabbi Horowitz seem to be saying to put it up somewhere in my house where not many people will see it but me. However, the point I am trying to raise that it is normative practice in my workplace to prominently display such awards and that this flies in the face of everything that I was ever taught.

At May 23, 2008 at 2:20:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear ya! I'm only pointing out the obvious flip side: that if we aren't careful, that too can be just as much (and sometimes more) of an ego trip...

At May 23, 2008 at 6:08:00 PM EDT, Blogger tickletik said...

My dad took all the plaques and awards that I and his other sons earned and put those up on his wall.

Personally, I like his approach better.

At May 24, 2008 at 9:06:00 AM EDT, Blogger Alice said...

Hang it in the bathroom. : )
That shows a sense of humor.

Or at least take it out of the frame and frame one of those great black and white photos you've got. Frames are expensive!

For what it's worth, I think it's OK to have it up in a discrete place, even if it's on the inside of a closet door in your office. You did good!

Now if we could only get you to stop wearing that Congressional Medal of Honor to work. That's so tacky.

At May 26, 2008 at 3:17:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hanging up Diplomas/Medical Qualifications is in a different category to displaying awards for "greatness" or "tzedaka".
Doctors must display their qualifications for obvious reasons.
But I totally agree that someone who feels the need to proclaim their "greatness" to the world, has a problem with self esteem. They would probably be termed "narcissistic" (excuse the spelling).

At May 26, 2008 at 5:28:00 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASJ, is this part of why you blog anonymously?

At May 26, 2008 at 7:35:00 PM EDT, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Bob: Perhaps. But the bigger reason is because I think that ideas are more imporant than personalities.


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