GOOD MORNING! The story is told of a group of students working diligently on the trait of humility. A new student entered the study hall and saw the students repeatedly pounding their chests and proclaiming, "I'm a nothing; I'm a nothing." So ... he puts down his things, starts pounding his chest and repeats, "I'm a nothing; I'm a nothing." One of the older student turns to his friend and says, "Look who just got here and already he thinks he's a nothing!"
It's probably universal that we all hate arrogance and are uncomfortable around arrogant people. Yet, to some degree we all have arrogance within us.
Q & A: WHAT IS HUMILITY AND
WHY DO WE NEED IT?
The Torah tells us that, "... Moses was very humble, more than any person on the face of the earth." The classic question is: Moses wrote down the words of the Torah; how is it possible for him to be humble after the Almighty tells him that he is the most humble man in the world?
The answer lies in the definition of humility. Humility is not being a nebbish -- meek, unassertive, pitiful, downcast loser. Humility is knowing exactly what your talents and capabilities are -- and recognizing that they and everything else is a gift from the Almighty. Moses understood that he was the only prophet to ever speak "face to face" with the Almighty; he also understood that this level of prophesy was a gift from God. Humility is an inward attitude.
Humility is a requisite for learning Torah. Torah is compared to water -- life-giving wisdom which flows to "low places." If one is humble, there is room for Torah to enter; if one is too full of himself, there is little room for anything else!
Why does a person need humility? A person with true humility will learn from others, will ask questions when he has doubts, and will be open to criticism. When one has humility, he does not feel a need to gain power over others or to feel above them by focusing on their faults. He will not act upon slights and escalate quarrels; he will ask for forgiveness and not blame others. He can see the good in others and therefore, love them. (Love is the emotion of pleasure one feels when focusing on the good in others.)
Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm taught that "Arrogance is a reprehensible trait that is the father of all other negative traits." An arrogant person demands that everything should be exactly as he wishes. He lacks patience and this causes him much frustration and suffering. A person with humility finds it easy to accept things not being the way he would have wished them to be. He focuses on the positive in each situation and circumstance. He has more joy in living.
How can one work on developing humility? Focus on the following, especially if you're feeling arrogant:
- You are small in comparison with the entire universe and the power of the Almighty.
- You know little compared to what there is to know and have accomplished little compared to your potential.
- Life is short, the body is frail and even the strongest person eventually becomes weak and dies.
- Life is full of turnabouts -- the rich become poor, rulers become servants, the honored become disgraced.
- Everything is a gift from the Almighty. We make our efforts, but success is from Above.
- We are all created by the Almighty and have intrinsic worth. Who is to say who has greater worth?
The only way to have arrogance is to lack awareness of the total picture of reality. Moses had the highest level of awareness of reality and therefore was the most humble man. The humble man stands up for truth and righteousness, unaffected by the opinion of others. He understands the reality of what is important -- God, Torah, truth -- and not his ego.
If you wish to learn more, read chapters 22 and 23 in The Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and the "Gate of Humility" in The Ways of the Tzaddikim (Righteous) available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.
For more on "Humility" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
Aharon is commanded in the lighting of the Menorah, the Levites purify themselves for service in the Tabernacle (they trained from age 25-30 and served from age 30-50). The first Pesach is celebrated since leaving Egypt. The Almighty instructs the Jewish people to journey into the desert whenever the ever-present cloud lifts from above the Tabernacle and to camp where it rests. Moshe is instructed to make two silver trumpets to be sounded before battle or to proclaim a Yom Tov (a holiday).
The people journey to the wilderness of Paran during which time they rebelled twice against the Almighty's leadership. The second time they complain about the boring taste of the manna and the lack of meat in the desert. The Almighty sends a massive quantity of quail and those who rebelled died.
Moshe asks his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro) to travel with them in the desert, but Yitro returns to Midian.
Miriam, Moshe's sister, speaks lashon hora (defaming words) about Moshe. She is struck with Tzora'as (the mystical skin disease which indicated that a person spoke improperly about another person) and is exiled from the camp for one week.
* * *
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Miriam, Moshe's sister, heard from Moshe's wife, Tzipora, that Moshe had separated himself from her (so that he, Moshe, could receive a prophecy from the Almighty at any time). Miriam felt that Moshe's behavior was improper, since both she and her brother, Aharon, both carried on their respective married lives, yet received prophecy. Miriam related her feelings to her brother, Aharon.
The Torah states:
"And Miriam and Aharon spoke against Moshe because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, 'Has God spoken only with Moshe? Has he not spoken also with us?' And the Lord heard. But the man Moshe was very humble, more than all the men that were upon the face of the earth" (Numbers 12:1-3).
The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, writes (Shmiras Haloshon 2:18) that from these verses we learn a number of principles concerning loshon hora, the laws regarding defamatory speech:
1) The prohibition against speaking loshon hora applies even when the person spoken against is very humble and does not mind if others speak against him. For this reason, immediately after Moshe was spoken against, the Torah states that he was humble.
2) Even if you have done many favors for another person, it does not give you the right to speak against him. Miriam helped save Moshe's life when he was an infant, but was still punished for her loshon hora.
3) The prohibition against loshon hora applies even if you do not publicize the loshon hora, but only relate it to one person, and that person is a relative who will not repeat it to anyone else. Miriam told the loshon hora only to her brother Aharon who would not publicize it.
4) If you say about a truly great man that his behavior would only be proper if he were on a higher level, but on his present level his behavior is improper, it is considered loshon hora. Miriam felt that Moshe was wrong for separating himself from his wife. She erred, however, since Moshe's level of prophecy was such that at any moment God could communicate with him and his abstention was proper.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 10
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
Guatemala 6:13 - Hong Kong 6:48 - Honolulu 6:54
J'Burg 5:04 - London 8:57 - Los Angeles 7:46
Melbourne 4:49 - Mexico City 7:56 - Miami 7:53
New York 8:08 - Singapore 6:52 - Toronto 8:40
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself.
It means thinking of yourself less.
-- C.S. Lewis
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
Copyright © 2015 Rabbi Kalman Packouz