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Monday, June 13, 2011

Shlach: Three Easy Pieces

All three pieces in this post are associated to some extent with the Kli Yakar.  

As the musical works listed in my profile indicate, I have a prejudicial preference for 'thirds', and what's the point of a semi-anonymous blog without an occasional eccentricity, so I'm calling this post "Three Easy Pieces."

Human humility and honest self awareness are congruous.
Godly Humility: How we can describe Hashem as having the apparent trait of humility.


Bamidbar Shlach 12:3, Moshe was more humble than any man on the face of the earth.

1.  It has been noted that  if you were to ask Moshe Rabbeinu "Who is the most humble man on earth?"  He would respond "I am."  He wrote it in the Torah because Hashem told him to, and he knew it was true, and that it was a praiseworthy and unprecedented achievement to have reached that madreiga of humility.  Bishlema his yedi'as hatorah, of course he knew was far beyond any other man.  But to be aware that you are the most humble of men seems to be self-contradictory.  In fact, however, this awareness did not diminish his humility at all:

Similarly, the Gemara (end of Sotah, 49b), Reb Yosef's ve'ha  ika ana, where the Mishnah says that with the death of Rebbi, humility died.  Reb Yosef protested, but what of me?  (Of course, some interpret the "Ana" in Rav Yosef's statement as referring not to himself but to some other Tanna who was famously humble.  This is not pashut pshat in the Gemara.)

Here is a famous example:
Reb Chatzkel Abramsky, the Av Beis Din in London from 1934 to 1951, a talmid of Reb Chaim Brisker, and author of the great Chazon Yechezkel on Tosefta, was was once sued by a shochet who claimed he had been fired unfairly.  As his testimony began, his attorney asked him to state his name and his position. The attorney then asked, "Is it true that you are the greatest halachic authority in the United Kingdom?  Rav Abramsky said, "Yes. That is true."

At that point the judge interjected and said, "Rabbi Abramsky, do your laws and ethics not teach you to be humble?  
Would you not say that this is somewhat haughty on your part?  Rav Abramsky responded, "Yes, we are taught to be humble. But I am under oath."

So it is an inescapable fact a man can know he is humble, and remain humble.

But if humility means knowing that you are no better than anyone else, how do we explain this?  He knew he was a tzadik in anivus, and that anivus is the key to a relationship with the Ribono shel Olam!

  • Life is not a sports event.  In a race, you are judged by comparing your position to that of others, irrespective of the competitors disparate natural talents.  Perhaps life is similar, and we are judged by comparison with others: see, e.g., the machlokes Rav and Shmuel by Noach Tzadik Tamim Hayah Bedorosav.  But the score is based on how close you have gotten to your tafkid, to your personal potential.  Your primary competition is your perfect self.  Moshe, knowing his flaws and failures, was humble.  He knew that he was not where he ought to be.  This awareness of his flaws and his regret for his failures meant that he was humble.  His humility was simply a matter of honest self awareness.  Nobody can be proud of an unflinching awareness of his failings.  
  • Kesef Mishna: Awareness of the greatness of other creations of Hashem makes you realize the vast chasm that separates you from perfection makes renders utterly trivial any superiority you may have over others human beings.  (Kesef Mishna in 4 Yesodei Hatorah 12.)

2.  Rav Yosef, earlier in Sotah, says that you always find that Hashem appears with anivus.  Although Hashem is "clothed with Gei'us," that is only His 'garb,' but within that garb, Hashem chooses the middah of Anivus.  Hashem, says Rav Yosef, chose Har Sinai and the Sneh to demonstrate that anivus.  How is anivus shayach by Hashem?  

That is the other part of anivus: appreciating the good qualities of others, irrespective of what you are, or of what others are.  A small mountain, a thornbush, have qualities of their own.  Respecting those qualities and loving the thing or person who has them is a form of anivus as well.  See, for example, how the Ruach Chaim explains this in Avos 4:1.

The Kli Yakar (first piece in Mikeitz, Breishis 41:1) begins with another Gemara (Megilla 31a) that associates the Ribono shel Olam with the Middah of Anivus, and explains it as follows:
 אמר רבי יוחנן, כל מקום שאתה מוצא גבורתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא, אתה מוצא ענוותנותו, דבר זה כתוב בתורה ושנוי בנביאים ומשולש בכתובים, כתוב בתורה, כי ה' אלהיכם הוא אלהי האלהים ואדוני האדונים, וכתיב בתריה, עושה משפט יתום ואלמנה, שנוי בנביאים כה אמר רם ונשא שוכן עד וקדוש וגו', וכתיב בתריה, ואת דכא ושפל רוח, משולש בכתובים, דכתיב סולו לרוכב בערבות ביה שמו, וכתיב בתריה אבי יתומים ודיין אלמנות   בנוהג שבעולם, שאדם שיש לו איזו מעלה יתר שאת על חבירו, אינו זוכר את חבירו הקטן מערכו, ובל ישא את שמו על שפתיו, מצד רום לבבו, וזו היא טענת הפילוסופים על השי"ת לאמר שלגודל רוממותו ית' אינו משגיח בשפלים בכל מה שתחת גלגל הירח, ולבטל דיעה נפסדה זו נאמר (ש"א ב ג) אל תרבו תדברו גבוה גבוה יצא עתק מפיכם כי אל דיעות ה' ולו נתכנו עלילות, ר"ל אל תדברו שמצד שהקב"ה גבוה מעל כל גבוהים אין לו ידיעה בפרטי מעשינו, כי אל דעות ה' שיש לו ידיעה בכולם ולו נתכנו כל עלילות מעשה איש. וכדי לאמת דבר זה שהקב"ה שוכן את דכא ושפל רוח, צירף הקב"ה בשמו הגדול ית' ארבע אותיות של מספר מועט יותר מכל האותיות שבאלפ"א ביתא, כשתכתוב יו"ד ה"א וי"ו ה"א הסתכל בכל האותיות כשתכתבם במלואם לא תמצא שום אות שיעלה למספר מועט כמו אלו. וכן אמרו רז"ל (מגילה יא.) א"ר יוחנן כל מקום שאתה מוצא גדולתו של הקב"ה שם אתה מוצא ענותנותו כו' מן הכתובים שנאמר (תהלים סח ה) סולו לרוכב בערבות ביה שמו, ר"ל שבחוהו ביה שמו כי עם היותו רוכב בערבות גבוה מכל אע"פ כן יה שמו, שהם האותיות הקטנים במספר והתיבה רק בעלת שני אותיות דהיינו המועט בצירוף האותיות וכל זה מופת על ענותנותו ית.

So, there are two aspects of anivus:
Awareness and hyper-criticism of one's own flaws, irrespective of whether you are ahead or behind others.
Appreciation and respect for others, irrespective of their flaws and humble state.

The idea of appreciation and respect for others is how the Netziv in our parsha explains Anivus by the Ribono shel Olam as well.  

I'm putting in a piece from the Gemara in Sotah 5a, for several reasons.  It talks about the repugnance of Ga'ava and the beauty of humility, and because it reiterates the idea of Hashem's middah of Anivus, but mostly because of the wonderful line about B'shamta if you do and B'shamta if you don't, which the Rambam brings in his pirush to Avos (4:4), and which we discuss more fully vis a vis the Ma'apilim, here.

א"ר אלעזר כל אדם שיש בו גסות הרוח ראוי לגדעו כאשירה כתיב הכא (ישעיהו י) ורמי הקומה גדועים וכתיב התם (דברים ז) ואשיריהם תגדעון וא"ר אלעזר כל אדם שיש בו גסות הרוח אין עפרו ננער שנא' (ישעיהו כו) הקיצו ורננו שכני עפר שכבי בעפר לא נאמר אלא שכני עפר מי שנעשה שכן לעפר בחייו ואמר ר' אלעזר כל אדם שיש בו גסות הרוח שכינה מיללת עליו שנאמר (תהילים קלח) וגבוה ממרחק יידע דרש רב עוירא ואיתימא רבי אלעזר בא וראה שלא כמדת הקב"ה מדת בשר ודם מדת בשר ודם גבוה רואה את הגבוה ואין גבוה רואה את השפל אבל מדת הקב"ה אינו כן הוא גבוה ורואה את השפל שנא' (תהילים קלח) כי רם ה' ושפל יראה אמר רב חסדא ואיתימא מר עוקבא כל אדם שיש בו גסות הרוח אמר הקב"ה אין אני והוא יכולין לדור בעולם שנא' (תהילים קא) מלשני בסתר רעהו אותו אצמית גבה עינים ורחב לבב אותו לא אוכל אל תקרי אותו אלא אתו לא אוכל איכא דמתני לה אמספרי לשון הרע שנא' מלשני בסתר רעהו אותו אצמית א"ר אלכסנדרי כל אדם שיש בו גסות הרוח אפילו רוח קימעא עוכרתו שנאמר (ישעיהו נז) והרשעים כים נגרש ומה ים שיש בו כמה רביעיות רוח קימעא עוכרתו אדם שאין בו אלא רביעית אחת עאכ"ו א"ר חייא בר אשי אמר רב ת"ח צריך שיהא בו אחד משמונה בשמינית א"ר הונא בריה דרב יהושע ומעטרא ליה כי סאסא לשבולתא אמר רבא בשמתא דאית ביה ובשמתא דלית ביה א"ר נחמן בר יצחק לא מינה ולא מקצתה מי זוטר דכתיב ביה (משלי טז) תועבת ה' כל גבה לב

Kli Yakar: Tzitzis- tcheiles like sea, like sky, like kisei hakavod- from Yalkut Shimoni in Haazinu:  The turbulent, restless sea always tries to break the rules and inundate the earth, but Hashem stops it.  The placid sky goes about its work with calm determination.  Same idea here- yiras onesh and ahava.  First, like Sea, which stays in bounds because of fear of Hashem's judgment.  Then like Sky, which does its work because it is the right thing to do.  Then you can come to the kisei hakavod.

Kli Yakar: Yom LeShana, a day for each year; in that this refers to the punishment for the Meraglim, it should be written the opposite way, Shana le'yom.  He explains that the term has a dual meaning.  Of course it means they were sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years (minus fifteen days, as explained here), one year for each day of the willful blindness of the Meraglim.  But “yom” also refers to Tisha Ba’av.  There will be one day every year that you re-experience the tzaros that resulted from what you have done here.

There was a man named William Temple, a Bishop of the Church of England, who happened to be a Judeophile and friend of Chief Rabbi Hertz.  He once said an interesting thing:
Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts.  It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.  

Since I wrote about humility, and that many people misunderstand it, I have to write the famous mussar joke about anivus.  A new bachur comes into Navoradok and sits down to learn mussar with hispa'alus, and begins to cry and moan "oy, I am nobody, I am nothing...."  An older bachur nudges his friend, and says "Look who thinks he's nobody."

And let us remember Winston Churchill's instructive observation, if only to eschew it.  Churchill once said "Yes, Man is but a worm, but I think that perhaps I am a glow-worm."



ZMS said...

"But the score is based on how close you have gotten to your tafkid, to your personal potential. Your primary competition is your perfect self." If I recall correctly, Rav Y.D. Soloveichik said that when Hashem said "Na'aseh Adam..." that He was turning k'vayachol to the neshama and saying "Look! Here is your perfect self here in shamyim. Your tafkid as you enter the world below is to come as close to this perfect image up here in the heavens. We are not in competition with others...we are in a competition with ourselves.

(Regarding item #3, I always felt that the reason it said Yom La'Shana was it implied that each day felt like a year...I have no makor for that...just a thought...

grunk said...

Ah, yes. This post reminds me that my only flaw is that I am too humble.

Eli said...

The Humility paradox is discussed at length in Jewish and General Philosophy. Some resolutions are (i) the humble one is not aware of his achievements (ii) He's aware of them, but deems himself unworthy due to other qualities he has, in which he is less worthy than other people (iii) like ii, but he's unworthy compared to Hashem (iv) ענוה does not mean to think low on oneself, but rather to act towards others as if they are equal to you.

For example, (i) R. Yisroel Salanter writes on Moshe Rabbenu "שהיה היותר שלם במין האנושי, עם כל זה היה בעיניו גרוע מכל" (ii) Ramban looks for aspects in which the other guy is better than you, whatever are your achievements (iii)see Kesef-Mishne, last sentence (iv) see Netziv , who compares Anav and Shfal-Berech and seems to go inline with the Kli-Yakar(R. Chayim Volozhiner rejects this view in Rua'ch Chaim 4:1 .

Luckily, I can easily be יוצא ידי כל השיטות.

I recall in one biography on R. SZ Auerbach, his son was quoted to say that he has tens of ראיות that his father was very well aware of his statue. He also has tens of ראיות that he really thought of himself equal to any other guy on the street (well, maybe just any other תלמיד-חכם on the street).

b said...

Thanks for the MMs. I put most of them into the post.

As for you being mekayeim anivus, certainly according to Reb Chaim Volozhiner.