Which medium would be more effective in bribing someone to do a small crime which by everyone’s standards will be deemed immoral: money, or honor? The crime will be undetectable so there is no worry that you will go to prison because of it. The Mesillas Yesharim sets forth the answer. He writes in chapter 11:
כבר היה אפשר שיכבוש האדם את יצרו על הממון ועל שאר ההנאות אך הכבוד הוא הדוחק, כי אי אפשר לו לסבול ולראות את עצמו פחות מחבריו. ועל דבר זה נכשלו רבים ונאבדו. מי גרם לקרח שיאבד הוא וכל עדתו עמו? אלא מפני הכבוד ומקרא מלא הוא (במדבר טז) ובקשתם גם כהונה וחכמים (במדבר רבה יח) הגידו לנו כי כל זה נמשך מפני שראה אליצפן בן עוזיאל נשיא והיה רוצה להיות הוא נשיא במקומו. כללו של דבר הכבוד הוא הדוחק את לב האדם יותר מכל התשוקות והחמדות שבעולם.
Man can conquer his yetzer hara from the pursuit of many pleasures, however, the pleasure for kovod is the most challenging. One cannot tolerate seeing his friend have greater prestige than him. The seeking of kovod was Korach’s downfall. He was jealous of the honor given to Elitzafan to become the nasi and he desired that kovod. The rule is that seeking honor is the strongest drive in Man, amongst all the others.
The Ari Hakadosh writes that the passuk צדיק כתמר יפרח spells קרח which indicates that he was a very lofty person. Nevertheless, the pursuit of kovid distorted his logical thinking and weakened his emunah, because of which he with his followers lost everything.
The Mesillas Yesharim gives another example how because of kovid one became forever damned. In Sanhedrin 102 it states:
הנה ירבעם בן נבט לא נטרד מהעולם הבא אלא בעבור הכבוד הוא מה שאמרו זכרונם לברכה סנהדרין קב א תפסו הקדוש ברוך הוא בבגדו ואמר לו חזור בך ואני ואתה ובן ישי נטיל בגן עדן אמר לו מי בראש אמר לו בן ישי בראש אמר לו אי הכי לא בעינא
After Shlomo Hamelech’s death Yeravam Ben Nevat led a movement that demanded that Shlomo’s heir Rechavam should rule more passionately. When Rechavam rejected their demands the ten northern tribes revolted seceded and proclaimed Yeravam as king of the newly established Kingdom of Yisrael. To keep his subjects from making the yearly pilgrimages to Yerushalayim which was under the control of the Davidic dynasty, Yeravam erected idolatrous golden calves in Beth Ail and Dan and instituted for them yearly festivals. Yeravam is considered one of the greatest sinners in Jewish History. Chazal in Sanhedrin tell us that Hashem grabbed Yeravam by his clothing and said “Do teshuvah, and I, you and Dovid (Hamelech) will stroll together in Gan Eden“.
Imagine after sinning and causing others to sin by serving idolatry, Hashem personally grabs you and says, “Here’s your chance for teshuvah. Not only will I forgive you but I will do with you what is exclusive to tzaddikim alone and that is to walk together in Gan Eden just us three”. What do you think Yeravam’s response to this most divine VIP private invitation was? He brazenly asked מי בראש who is going to be walking in front, me or Dovid?
Yeravam was so obsessed with kovid that he was willing to forfeit eternity and a most unique intimacy with Hashem for a wish so infantile that he must be positioned first in line. In Sanhedrin 90 the Mishnah lists off four kings who do not have a portion in Olam Habah and Yeravam is one of them.
The Meforshim ask concerning this gemarah why did Yeravam inquire who is the first in line when in the context of Hashem’s request of Yeravam to do teshuvah the answer was very clear: I, you, and Dovid will walk together? Rav Chaim Shmulevitz ztl answers that this is how sick a person can become when he seeks kovid. Yeravam wanted to hear explicitly from Hashem the words “You are before Dovid”, and not merely have acquired knowledge deduced from a statement that Hashem mentioned. Because of his brazen non-gratuitous inquiry, Hashem changed His mind by saying Dovid will be first, and Yeravam said “If that’s the case I am not interested!”
This reminds me of the story of the “Yiddishe” Savta who was spending time with her grandchild at the beach and since the sun was blistering hot she made sure that her ainekel was wearing a hat to protect him. All of a sudden, a huge wave appears out of nowhere and sweeps the child back into the ocean and he disappears from sight. The grandmother runs frantically to the water and starts screaming towards the heavens how can you do this to me? I have worked so hard to be a good Yid all my life against all odds and I didn’t budge an inch from your Torah. And this is my reward? All of a sudden another huge wave appeared from nowhere and dumped her grandchild on the beach. She ran towards her ainekle picked him up and baruch Hashem he looked just fine. She put him down and turned to Hashem and said “Thank you. By the way where’s his hat?” Ludicrous! Hashem can perform a miracle right before one’s eyes and we can become so dwarfed that we only focus on the trivia and nonsense instead of the magnanimous essence. What a human tragedy!
The legend goes that the Kedushas Levi during one of his travels spent Shabbos Shira in a small town. In the morning he went to the shteebel and asked for the Amud to daven Shacharis. They didn’t know who this stranger was yet they gave him the merit because he did appear like a holy individual. When he began reciting and singing the אז ישיר, suddenly all nature broke loose. Water started coming up through the cracks of the floor and door to the point that people in the shul were busy picking up their robes in order that they shouldn’t be soaked. As fast as the water entered the shul that is how fast it left.
Wow! The Berdichiver Rebbi enacted a Kerias Yam Suf right in front of their eyes. Upon hearing this episode, one tzaddik remarked what an unfortunate incident for the people of that town. For together with the water seeping in from everywhere came also the lofty revelations that Am Yisrael experienced during Kerias Yam Suf. The people in shul were so distracted and focused on their hems not to get drenched and damaged, that they missed the grand opportunity of a lifetime to have a unique devikus with Hashem.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen many instances of parents playing with their children fun games such as checkers and chess which I think are great opportunities for personal growth for your child. I once explained to a parent that one reward is that you are spending bonding time with your child in a way that he enjoys the time being with you. Secondly, these types of games help develop a child’s mind into thinking of strategies and moves beyond the one he is making at the moment. Thirdly, when he wins you have just built up his self-esteem and self-confidence during a successful competition. The parent gave me this weird look and a wide grin and said what do you mean when he wins? He never wins over me. I outsmart him every time!
Wow. He obviously views himself as The Parent Wonder. I say the reverse is true he is a Wonder Parent which describes someone who makes everyone wonder how is he in the role of being a parent. I attempted to explain to him that his kovid and ego are unhealthy and out of control. If you can get a rush of kovid from defeating your 11-year-old son in a chess game then you need a therapist fast. In this type of Chinuch bonding, the only reason you have to win only once in a while is in order to prove that during the majority of losing times you were really trying. Don’t let this type of petty kovid get in the way of forging successful relationships, whether it concerns the Chinuch of your children, your marriage and shalom bayis, or your relationship with Hashem. The lesson to be learned is to stop worrying about saving your hat and go out and rescue the child who is floundering in the water.