Michael Laitman
Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute

The Allegory of the Sinner Who Was Saved by a Button

Once upon a time a sinner who lived very badly decided to come to his senses and he started doing good deeds. However, he noticed no significant changes for the better.

One day he walked down a street and saw that a button from an old woman’s coat had fallen off. He looked at it and thought: “Should I pick it up for her or not? She has a lot of buttons after all.” He decided to pick it up anyway. He caught up with the old lady, gave her the button, moved on, and forgot about what he had done.

When he passed away, he awaited judgment as to whether he would go to heaven or hell. There were scales: the left side of the scale, which measured evil, was full. The right side, which measured good, was empty. He thought that he was on his way to hell when an angel arrived, placed a small button on the right scale’s pan, and it tipped the scale to the good side.

The man was amazed: “Just one button tipped the scale!” He heard the angel say: “It was because you thought that you were doing good deeds, they disappeared. But precisely this button that you forgot about was enough for you to be saved.”

It is natural to think that we have done good in our lives, and then we find ourselves constantly thinking about the good we did each day. However, what we thought of as our good deeds were not really good at all, and what we did not think about, but just forgot about, might have been a much better action than what we thought of as a good one.

This brings us to the question: Why can we not count the good deeds in this world? It is because we should do good deeds based on a pure inner desire for good, and not just to check off that we have done good deeds.

Many people in the world wake up in the morning and start counting the number of good deeds they have done, and by the end of the day, they become filled with a feeling of righteousness. If we do so, then we live with the fact that we accumulate good deeds for the future.

Are such actions good deeds? Not at all, because we do them solely for ourselves. By performing these so-called “good deeds,” we obligate the upper force to somehow repay us. If we do not overcome and act above our egoistic desires to benefit ourselves alone, we will then perform no good deeds.

If we live by calculating whether or not something is worth doing, and how much we gain with each of our actions and interactions, imagining that the “good deeds” we perform will give us future benefit, then we do not rise above our inborn egoistic desires for self-benefit alone. According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, a method for rising above our egoistic desires, such an approach is a failure from the start.

Rising above our egoistic nature means performing actions with an absolutely selfless intention, that the world and people will benefit, and the person performing the actions will get absolutely nothing out of it, as if no one knows about those actions and will never find out.

Nonetheless, however, it is still positive for people to act while considering their personal rewards. It does not give them any real benefit, but it is still positive, because in any case it will result in a world with less evil than if people did not think in such a way. Good deeds would then begin from a higher threshold and level. In other words, we should still perform “good deeds,” as they are commonly understood. They are not good deeds, but if we understand that they are not good deeds, then they will be a step toward performing actual good deeds.

We should then habituate ourselves with performing such actions, not for ourselves, but for the world. That is the point when our soul starts opening up toward the world.

What is the soul? It is an absolutely empty space that we need to fill with our desire to benefit the world, and with nothing for ourselves. Humanity is developing to such a state, and it is indeed possible to achieve.

About the Author
Michael Laitman is a PhD in Philosophy and Kabbalah. MSc in Medical Bio-Cybernetics. Founder and president of Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute. Author of over 40 books on spiritual, social and global transformation. His new book, The Jewish Choice: Unity or Anti-Semitism, is available on Amazon: