Doing Good for the Right Reasons

Today, I was thinking about the concept of doing mitzvos when there’s no one to see the good we’re doing; a silent act of kindness such as proffering a coin to a charity collector we don’t know, something which will go unknown to all but the person we helped. I came across the following quote from Shir HaShirim, saying ”Behold! He stands behind our wall, looking from the windows, peering through the crevices”. Of course, this refers to G-d. Initially, I interpreted it as saying we should never transgress just because we are alone, away from the prying eyes of community members, because G-d sees what we’re doing. But then I realised it worked the other way round, too.

There is a danger in speaking publicly of the good deeds we’ve done. Although, on the one hand, it can encourage others to do good, praise is addictive and can lead us to rely on public approval to do mitzvos. If other’s admiration encourages us, that’s all well and good. But when we rely on it to perform mitzvos, there is a very significant problem.

We need to decide for ourselves what it is sensible to share, and what we should keep to ourselves. But most importantly of all, we need to remember that no good deed goes unaccounted for, because Hashem is always watching. If we truly want to please Him, we will do mitzvos for the sake of mitzvos, because extending kindness to our neighbours is the best possible display of Ahavos Yisroel, and, thus, honour for our Creator.

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