You Want Others to Think Well of You?  Good!

With an increasing sense of unease, I read reports about criminal assaults of unimaginable brutality committed against innocent passers-by.  In many instances, there was no robbery involved; the motivation was clearly not gain. It turns out to be nothing but an expression of nauseatingly violent hatred against a stranger on account of his political persuasion or his religious beliefs or because of his white skin color.  Sometimes it is just for the nihilistic joy of destruction. To my knowledge, this form of anti-social behavior is occurring more frequently in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Today we rightly condemn past times when similar assaults took place, though the political persuasions, religious beliefs and skin color might have been different. Yet, today we often avert our eyes from these attacks and pretend they aren’t happening. 

I am sure that there must be one or two people in your world for whom you harbor intense dislike.  I know that is true for me. There are even a few human beings whose actions I view as so evil and destructive that I do believe the world would be better off without them.

What stops you and me from creeping up behind one of these people we dislike (okay, detest) and ferociously slamming our fists against the back of their heads so savagely that they collapse to the sidewalk?  Precisely this is now happening ever more frequently, and what is more, most of the thugs elude capture and escape justice.

So, why don’t you and I launch barbaric assaults on those most deserving of our censure?  One important answer is that we refrain from violently attacking strangers in the street for exactly the same reason that those conscienceless criminals do commit those attacks: In order to earn and maintain the approval and esteem of others.

In their world, their friends applaud with high fives and by filming the attack on their ubiquitous phones.  In our world, we eschew violence in favor of rational debate and calm conversation, thereby earning the regard and respect of our associates.

We all need other people to think well of us; not all other people, but those whom we classify as friends.  We have other needs as well. We need air, water, food and shelter; these are our physical needs. However, we have equally real spiritual needs among which, one of the most important is the need to be thought well of by others.  We dress, drive and discipline our children partially in order to earn and retain the approval of others. This spiritual need also influences why we try to make and spend more money than we would require merely to survive physically.  

The Hebrew word for our legitimate need for the approval of others is KaVoD and looks like this:

כ ב ו ד

The 1st, 2nd, and 4th  letters  כ-בד  (reading right to left of course) spell out the Hebrew root word meaning weighty in the sense of heavy or massive. However,  the 3rd letter, the letter Vav, is one of the three letters comprising God’s holy name and, as such, it contributes a profoundly spiritual element to any word in the middle of which it appears.  This explains that our need for Kavod is not merely the physical desire to appear weighty and significant but it is a spiritual desire to be admired by others in the same way, as it were, that God is admired by his sentient creatures. 

…bring to the Lord KaVoD and strength.
(Psalms 29:1)

There are, however, only two places in the Tanach, where KaVoD is spelled without that special Godly letter vav,  using only the three basic letters, like this:

כ ב ד

Here’s the first:

And he heard the words that Laban’s sons were speaking: “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from that which was our father’s he has built up all this KaVoD.”
(Genesis 31:1)

Here’s the second:

Go ahead, plunder the silver, plunder the gold! There is no limit to the treasure;
It is a KaVoD of all precious objects. 

(Nahum 2:10)

Those who despoiled the city of Nineveh and plundered its treasures saw none of the spiritual purpose and social value of wealth. To them it was all materialistic.

Likewise, Jacob’s brothers-in-law (who are not identified as relatives of Jacob but rather merely as his father-in-law’s sons) saw none of the tremendous value Jacob had brought their family.  They could focus only the material value of what Jacob legitimately owned, but which they saw as him having appropriated.

In reality, KaVoD is part of the social fabric that helps regulate human behavior for positive ends to the benefit of everyone.

See how King Solomon discusses the benefits of living your life with wisdom:

In her [wisdom’s] right hand is length of days and in her left, wealth and KaVoD.
(Proverbs 3:16)

Living our lives wisely, explains the great king, brings longevity, financial achievement, and the esteem of other people.  Viciously beating up people of whom we disapprove is not living wisely and brings only the approval of like-minded hooligans and murderers. It brings conspicuously shortened lives and certainly no financial success.

It follows, of course, that God wants us to desire the approval of others, long life, and financial achievement because the pursuit of those three objectives encourages us to try to live with wisdom.  This is good for all the humans around us who grant us their approval. What is more, doing so earns us God’s approval as well.  


11 thoughts on “You Want Others to Think Well of You?  Good!”

  1. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
    ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:23-24‬
    I used to like your teachings because it used to give insights to The Bible from the meanings of the original Hebrew. Now as I read the teachings and people’s comments, I wish you would just make it a non Biblical teaching because you can sense the Not Christ Like handwriting on the wall.

  2. Once again I have to applaud your sensible, well-thought out comments. You write from the perspective of a rational, moral, intelligent, mature person. Unfortunately, you and I and all others who hold to and exercise this type of rational thought and behavior are in the minority. This is basically a spiritual problem which is manifesting in the natural realm. Departure from Godly principles always leads to destructive behaviors, attitudes, and reasonings. Our moral base has shifted from Judeo-Christian to pagan, hedonistic worldviews. Unfortunately this lawless, Godless, amoral philosophy is promoted in our schools, media, government and homes. Anyone with any sense at all should recognize how destructive this way of thinking is. Our society will not survive many more years of this. The Bible has the answer. It always does. Isaiah 5:20 Amplified Bible (AMP) Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! There is a remedy. Evil will not continue unanswered.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for writing, Jeanne,
      It does look a little gloomy doesn’t it? But demographic predictions are notoriously unreliable so we hope for another national great awakening.

  3. My take is that we are primarily to strive to live to please God (and do his will), not other humans. In living God-pleasing lives, we will also have the extra benefit of gaining the respect of those around us who more fully understand why we are on earth. From a N.T. standpoint, we are to be in the world but not of the world.

  4. I since a lot of anger. I certainly do not see anger in RDL’s remarks.
    We all should know that anger, bitterness, hate belong to Satan. Open up to any of the three allows Satan in to do His work. As for good incent by-standers, God has given us many tools to use for our protection.
    When we in turn do not use them, it leaves us open to be victims of this world. We all have that choice.
    Gods way or our own way of which is generally not Gods way. We have to have Gods protection.
    We can not do it on our own. Satan is much to strong. Just as Jesus said to Satin when He was interfering with Him one time “Satan get behind me”. This is one tool Jesus was trying to show us.
    When we are in a situation of conflict demand Satan to leave and He has to; one of Gods rules.
    Now we would look pretty stupid demanding Satan to leave out loud but it is a tool to help us.
    Your choice God’s way or yours. Sorry got carried away.
    Pease and Love

  5. The one that sticks out for me is then one where two guys are walking on a side walk. One says hello to the other and the other guy replies. I hate Jews and punches him in the face. Completely senseless. A retired navy seal said, there’s a hole bunch of people that need to be shot and nobody is doing the shooting. I’m not advocating anyone be shot! I do share the sentiments though. How is it that these people are able to do these things and still live their lives like nothing ever happened? I mess up just this much and I get a very public bare butt whooping.

  6. “With an increasing sense of unease, I read reports about criminal assaults of unimaginable brutality committed against innocent passers-by.”

    Having thought about this exact issue for quite some time I reached the conclusion that the innocent passers-by actually deserved what they got. They set themselves up for this. They elected politicians who are weak on crime. They opened up the borders for violent immigrants to enter. In some countries they invited in hundreds of thousands of people who tend to be more violent. They didn’t have to do this. They did it because they wanted to do it. Now they suffer the consequences. And I don’t care when they are hurt.

    What about people wearing MAGA hats and other Trump garb?

    I am constantly amazed that these people aren’t armed with some kind of pepper spray or weapon. Come on. They know liberals are nuts. Yet they continually act surprised when violence comes to them. Maybe they deserve what they get too. If you wear Trump garb then you need to be ready for violence.

    Your personal safety is your responsibility.

    1. The border has been an issue for decades. We are simply ignored. What about American on American violence? The example I set below, antifa and the people doing mass shootings? People wearing Trump garb deserve it? People wearing communist garb are not being beat up. How about gay pride garb? How many atheists are getting a beat down? If wearing Trump garb is deserving of violent retribution then so is what I outlined. This is the point of what Rabbi Lapin is saying. One side applauds the behavior and the other is repulsed but it.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      You’re using hyperbole to make your point, Matt,
      I can’t believe you actually think that an innocent passerby or an enthusiast wearing a red cap deserves to be attacked. That we should all today be situationally aware and prepared for escape or confrontation is true. Many who have been attacked have most definitely not voted for the radical socialistic policies that have brought us the cultural meltdown. They were decidedly innocent.

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