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As the saying goes, fame is fleeting. However, most humans enjoy it when it exists. The problem with fame is that it is very temporary, fickle and has a very short shelf life. However, while it lasts it is intoxicating and delectable. The famous anecdote about the politician who learns that an investigative article regarding his nefarious behavior was about to be published in the local newspaper, responds, “I hope that they have spelled my name correctly.”

This reveals the vanity that drives people towards fame at almost all costs. Yet, in retrospect out of the billions of people who inhabit our planet and make up our history, very very few have achieved lasting fame and notoriety, and even fewer are remembered fondly, especially with respect to later generations. Such is the nature of fame and the human condition. It is a combination of ludicrous comedy and oppressive sadness. Fame and folly apparently go hand in hand throughout human history.
I am motivated to write this article by an incident that happened to me recently when I flew to the United States on my favorite airline, El Al. Since the clientele on this airline is overwhelmingly Jewish and religious Jews are also a considerable part of the customer base, there were a number of people on the flight who recognized me. Since it was a very long flight, I imagine that some of them mentioned to their fellow passengers that they had seen me on the flight. I was however very surprised when, in the middle of the flight, a woman approached me that I did not know and brought me a copy of one of my parsha articles that she said her daughter really enjoyed. She asked me to please sign the article so she could send the autographed sheet back to her daughter and prove to her that she actually met me the on the plane. I happily accommodated her wish and signed the paper.
The person I was sitting next to on the plane who until then treated me as the perfect stranger was apparently very impressed at my newly found fame. I became an instant celebrity among those sitting in my row in the airplane. Basking in my fame, I enjoyed the moment though l realized that in the long run of things, it really mattered very little. But a little fame is still intoxicating after all.
In our never-ending information bombardment, that currently marks our lifestyle, fame is more fleetingthan ever before. Lasting fame and positive notoriety have become rarer than ever. Yet, we find that the Torah itself promotes the good and righteous people so that they may influence others to follow in their footsteps. The Lord promised our father Abraham that he would glorify his name and make it known throughout the world in human history. God naturally fulfilled that promise so that our father Abraham remains a model and teacher for all generations of mankind, even for those who are not adherents of Judaism. The Torah mentions many people, many of them positively while others are held up to criticism and shame. The Torah uses the fame of people as a teaching instrument. Positive traits create fame while negative ones only promote temporary notoriety.
The rabbis of the Talmud taught us that that those who attempt to avoid fame and notice are destined to have that fame pursue them and eventually catch up to them. Both King Saul and King David initially attempted to avoid fame and power. The great Hillel also sought anonymity for himself before being elevated to be the head of the Sanhedrin. In later generations many great scholars wrote monumental works and did not identify themselves as being the authors. Eventually though, almost all were revealed, as fame, in the words of the Rabbis, caught up with them. The Chofetz Chaim and Chazon Ish are prime examples of this historical phenomenon. 
It seems that lasting fame belongs to those who are the least self-promoting and who avoid pursuing public attention and praise. All of this certainly flies in the face of current practice. Jewish tradition was unaware of media companies and public relations experts. Nevertheless, fame is one of the realities of the human existence, and as the saying goes: “It is like perfume that needs to be savored but not swallowed”.
Shabbat Shalom.
Berel Wein                   

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