Kenneth Cohen

Kavod Seeking

The Ramchal points out in Messilat Yesharim that the desire of an individual for Kavod, honor, is much more damaging than we might realize.

He says the following: It would be possible for a person to conquer his evil inclination concerning wealth and other forms of gratification, but craving for honor is what consistently drives a person.

Being in this state does not allow the Kavod seeker to tolerate seeing himself stationed himself lower than his peers. This gives him no rest, and causes him to make foolish mistakes.

The honor seeker will even bring upon himself unnecessary suffering. If he is in need of money, and the only job he can get, is one that he sees is below his dignity, he will live in poverty, and go hungry, rather than have to live with a feeling of humiliation.

Other desires that a person might have, weaken with age. The exception is the pursuit of honor, that stays with a person his entire life. It a kind of spiritual sickness that is extremely difficult to cure.

The Tanach speaks of several individuals, whose pursuit of Kavod, led to their ultimate downfall. The Ramchal gives Yeravam, Korach, the spies, and Yoav, as examples of those who fell because of their honor obsession.

Yeravam, the evil king of Israel, was offered an eternal place in Gan Eden with King David, if he repented. He refused the offer when he was told he would be number two behind David. His honor seeking caused this foolish decision.

Korach rebelled when his cousin was appointed head of the Kehati Leviim and not him. The spies gave their evil report because they were afraid they would lose their positions as princes of their tribes, upon entering Eretz Yisrael. And Yoav killed Amasa, when he was given the position of general, instead of him.

We see how various character flaws can cause us serious problems. But we must particularly realize how honor seeking, pride, and ego, can lead to our downfall.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at