Michael Laitman, On The Times of Israel: “On Righteousness and Being Righteous”
Sadio Mane, who was one of Liverpool Football [soccer] Club’s top players and top earners, with a salary of £150,000 per week, was once spotted carrying an iPhone with a broken screen before a game. When asked about it, he said, “Why would I want ten Ferraris, 20 diamond watches, or two planes? What will these objects do for me and for the world? I was hungry, and I had to work in the field; I survived hard times, played football barefooted, I did not have an education and many other things, but today with what I earn thanks to football, I can help my people … I built schools, a stadium, we provide clothes, shoes, food for people who are in extreme poverty. In addition, I give 70 euros per month to all people in a very poor region of Senegal which contributes to their family economy. I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes, trips and even planes. I prefer that my people receive a little of what life has given me.”
This is very impressive, no doubt. It is rare to find people with such a sincere desire to help.
A few days ago, someone asked me if Mane is a righteous man. Here is where I need to explain something about the meaning of the title “righteous” and the term “righteousness.”
In Hebrew, the word tzadik (righteous) comes from the word matzdik (thinking that someone or something is right). In other words, it is something that comes to a person who debates between two options and decides which of them is right.
Most people are not natural born givers like Mr. Mane. For him, the logic is simple: He grew up poor, he knows how it feels not to have what you need, he cares about his people, so he wants to prevent as many of his people as possible from feeling that scarcity. Mane is not debating between two options; he knows what he wants to do and follows his desire. This is great, but it is not “righteousness.”
“Righteousness” means that you face two options, one of which is very tempting but not good, and the other one is good but wholly undesirable. Specifically, it is a choice between doing what is good only for me or what is good for others. My decision, therefore, is not between two things that feel good, but between what feels good and what feels right.
Since Mane feels good when he gives, he is not regarded as a “righteous” in that sense. A generous person toward his people, certainly, but not “righteous” in the sense that he debated between two options and chose the right one over the pleasurable one. As he himself said, “I do not need to display luxury cars, luxury homes,” etc., meaning he does not want them, or wants them less than to help his people.
There is an idiom in the wisdom of Kabbalah, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does good and did not sin.” Another idiom says, “A thousand times will a righteous fall and rise.” In other words, righteous people are individuals with very strong selfish desires, who have fallen into their selfishness, then chose to rise above it having realized that they need to do what is right, and not what pleases their egos.
On a side note, but even more important, being righteous or not righteous is not the issue in our society. We do not need to look for righteous people or for generous benefactors; we need to make all of society just and balanced, and then we will have no destitute people who are forced to rely on others’ generosity.
To achieve this, we must set up educational systems that will teach us values, not information. Humanity could live very well, without any deprivation or paucity, if only people felt connected and cared for one another. Our problem, therefore, is not that not enough people are as generous as Mr. Mane, but that all of us, almost without exception, are absorbed in ourselves. We need a global education system that will teach us how we are all connected and dependent on each other. Since we are mutually dependent, it is mandatory that we learn to care about each other. Only such a global educational system will enable us to think of each other and build a better world together.
I wish all of us to be wealthy not with money, but with love for one another. This is all the affluence that we will ever need.