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Reputation Obsession: Taking Tov Shem M’Shemen Tov – A Good Name is Better Than Good Oil – to the Next Level

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Third in a series of posts in reaction to the New Square situation. Part 1: Thoughts on Kiryas Joel: The Poorest City in America and Part 2: Attempted Murder in New Square: An Analysis.

There is a certain common sentiment amongst many minorities and ethnicities. It is commonly expressed as “bringing shame to the family”. Or sometimes it emerges as a threat “what will the neighbors think”. Once in a while you will hear something about the “family name”.

These are normal, and by normal I mean occuring fairly regularly, among minorities. These stereotypes are played on incessantly in Hollywood movies and television programs and they make for good entertainment sometimes (eg Bend it Like Beckham).

In Judaism there is a concept of a Shem Tov, a good name. The verse in Ecclesiastes says: “Tov shem m’shemen tov”, a good name is better than good oil. Earning a good reputation and keeping it has a place in the Jewish thought. Read…