For Goodness’ Sake

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Terumah Instrinsic Beauty

“Virtue is like a rich stone, best plain set.” – Sir Francis Bacon

One weird design quirk of the menorah is that it had to be completely fashioned from one piece of gold. All of its decorative ornaments could not be made remotely and later attached to the menorah, they had to be chiseled as part of the menorah.

The aesthetic beauty of menorah was not external to the menorah. Adding ornamental decorations would not do, it had to be intrinsically beautiful.

I think it’s common to use external pleasure or beauty to lure people into healthy, or moral, or desired behavior. “Eat your veggies so you can get desert.” “Do your homework so you can play video games.” “Go to work so you can make money.” “Be kind so others with be kind to you.” This is a good way to induce good behavior.

There’s a better way. Good behavior can be induced by emphasizing the value and virtue of good behavior. “Eat your veggies so you will be healthy and strong.” “Do your homework so you can be knowledgeable and industrious.” “Go to work so you can be productive and contribute to society.” “Be kind because it is good to be kind.” This way, doing the right thing has its own value. We don’t need external motivation – the thing itself is good and that is why we do it.

The menorah’s beauty was intrinsic, not external and arbitrarily attached to it. Good values and good behavior are their own reward. Appealing to vice in order to promote virtue, cheapens it. Learn to appreciate the inherent value in doing the right thing.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink is the founder of shulontheinternet.com.
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