What drives you? Do you want fame or a good name??

The truth is that in our hearts, we know our most valued asset is a solid reputation. We strive to lead lives of honesty and authenticity…and yet it is challenging to embody this ideal each and every day.

We live in a society enamored with reality TV, selfies and the never-ending quest for “likes” and followers. We seek the proverbial “five minutes of fame.” Our souls realize, though, that the accolades are only temporal. What is eternal: Our reputations. Built over years, reputations endure forever. Our reputations are the product of the small moral decisions that define our character and the essence of who we are and who we want to be.

How do you want to be known?

One of the most inspiring moments as clergy is when we meet a person about whom people say, “He is someone you could trust. He keeps his word. It is as good as gold.”

Is your word as good as gold? Would someone do business with you on a handshake? Do you model integrity at home, in the office and in life?

Sam Fogel, of blessed memory, serves as a shining example of the blessings and benefit of possessing a good name. A survivor of the Holocaust, Sam came to America with no more than the shirt on his back. He began working in a garment factory and slowly assumed more responsibility. He was known for his honesty and integrity, never taking even a thread that did not belong to him. He heeded the word of Albert Einstein, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

When the owner of the factory retired, he turned to Sam with an offer to buy the business. Without much money, Sam explained he could not afford the investment. Yet a banker from Hanover Bank knew of Sam and his reputation as a person of the highest integrity…and on a handshake alone—with no down payment—loaned him the money to start his tie business, Fogel Ties. He trusted Sam intuitively.

Soon after Sam purchased the factory, a young buyer from Bloomingdales came to him and asked if he could manufacture a few ties as he was interested in starting his own business. They built a relationship that lasted decades. His name was Ralph Lauren. Sam was so highly regarded for his sterling character that even when Polo began manufacturing clothes overseas, Ralph Lauren insisted that the ties be made at Sam’s factory as long as it remained open for business.

Sam not only rebuilt his life, but he cared for his devoted employees and became a pillar of generosity in his community.

How different the world could be if there were more people like Sam Fogel. We aspire to a society based on trust and truth. The Bible highlights the significance of our words and whether we can be trusted. For instance, if a person makes a promise, he is required to keep it. God states in Numbers (30:2), “When a person makes a vow, he should not make it profane.” This is a reminder not to devalue or cheapen our words. God created us with the power of speech. Each word creates or destroys. As Solomon wrote, “Life and Death are in the hand of the tongue.”

When you make a promise, do you deliver? When trusted with confidential information, do you protect it? Is your word one people can count on? How will your children and grandchildren remember you? Your community and business associates? Are your handshake and your words as good as gold?

Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?

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