Promote your name—lose your reputation. (avot 1:13)
If I am not for myself, who is for me? (avot 1:14)
Which is the right path that you should choose for yourself?
One that is admirable in your eyes,
And admirable in the eyes of others. (avot 2:1)
There are three crowns:
The crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty;
But the crown of a good name is above them all. (avot 4:17)
Living & Learning
You have a job interview coming. Where do you draw the line between being legitimately “for yourself”, on one hand, and, on the other, puffing yourself up in a way that risks your reputation?
Hillel endorses being “for yourself,” but sees self-promotion as self-destructive, as leading to loss of good reputation—the respect and admiration of others, one of your most precious assets.
- One guideline is: how would others who know you well admire how you are handling competitive pressures?
- Another guideline is to push your accomplishments, the services or goods you have produced, but do not put others down.
How have you promoted yourself? Where did you draw the line on what is illegitimate? What has worked for you? What has backfired?
Promote your name.
This saying can mean simply that with fame comes critics who will spoil your reputation. But here “promote” seems also to imply that the person acting improperly tries to inflate his or her accomplishments in order to impress others and advance his or her own cause.
As the next mishnah indicates, Hillel believed that some kind of self-assertion is legitimate, as opposed to the improper kind of self-promotion indicated in this mishnah. What kind of self-promotion is proper? What kind is wise? These are important questions in our age of mass media and social “networking” for career advancement. Obviously, being honest is necessary. But beyond that, these seem to be open questions.
If I am not for myself, who is for me? This question not only implies that it is legitimate to pursue your own interests, but also launches you into thinking of the best way to carry out that pursuit. Your answer to, “If I am not for myself—if I have to rely totally on others—who is for me?” will also give you a shrewd idea of who your friends and allies are, and who is not with you, or may even be actively opposed to your efforts.
A name made great is a name destroyed.
This teaches that one’s name should not come to the attention of the Ruling Power. For once a man’s name comes to the attention of the Ruling Power, the end is that it casts its eye upon him, slays him, and confiscates all his wealth (ARN).
If somebody’s name becomes well known in the city— “So-and-so is handsome, So-and-so is strong”—you will go looking for him on the morrow and not find out even when he departed from the world (ARNB).
He who appropriates for himself the fame of the Torah, that is, he who studies Torah in order to be able to boast of it, not for the sake of the study, will not acquire a name for himself (Vitry).
If one does whatever he does not for the sake of Heaven, but only to get a reputation, his name will be cut off in the end (Aknin).