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Beit Midrash Series Ein Ayah

(based on Berachot 2:53)

The Long-Term Impact of the Wise on Others

Various RabbisTishrei 5770
663
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Gemara:
Fortunate is he who … grew with a good name and expired from this world with a good name.


Ein Ayah:
The point of having a name is not for the sake of the person himself. After all, a person does not need to use his name in relation to himself. Rather, it is necessary for him to have a name so that others can use it to refer to him. We learn from the story of Iyov as well [the gemara’s statement was said at a siyum on Sefer Iyov] that every person of a high moral standing is obligated not only to reach personal shleimut (completeness) but must involve himself in the shleimut of others. This involvement in others’ self improvement is the matter of a good name.
The impact one has on others can grow increasingly greater as the generations progress. Sometimes the words of a wise man are not accepted by the people of his generation, as they may not recognize his greatness or delve into his words as they might have. Therefore, his ideas are not able to have their full potential impact on people’s shleimut in his lifetime. Rather, in future generations, when the jealousy and the over-familiarity, which blind the eye, subside, then his words will become clear and many will follow his light.
This is what Shlomo said in his wisdom: "A name is better than good oil" (Kohelet 7:1). Good oil is a reference to those who are anointed, which means that their generation agreed to accept their leadership. Sometimes, those leaders have an impact only on their generation and in their lifetime. However, for the wise man, whose main contribution is to bring shleimut to the masses, the day of death is greater than the day he was born. That is because after his death, his light can shine brightest, as his good ideas, which he left for future generations, either in his writings or by means of the students whom he "nursed from the breasts" of his wisdom, are absorbed by others.


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