Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jacob's Humility

As heard from Eiezer Zalmanov
To qualify as a platform from which God would present the Jews the Torah, Mount Sinai was chosen because it stood high, but not too high. The symbolism is clear: A Jew must know his worth and be proud, but must carefully refrain from being haughty. Humility is practically ingrained in the Jewish soul, for we have had it since our forefathers and since Moses, who was the most humble of all.

A hint to this trait we find in the verse, where Yaakov worries he is in overdraft on his account of goodnesses God has dispatched his way (Gen.32:11).
קטנתי מכל החסדים
I have become smaller from all the goodnesses ...

The gemora (Sotah 5a) reminds us a Torah scholar must have only an eighth of an eight of haughtiness (= 1/64)! Otherwise he is arrogant!

By divine providence, the above verse falls out to be the 8th in the 8th parsha. Yaakov's "smallness" of 1 in 8 by 8 is quite fitting therefore. Were he to become even one notch haughtier, that would yield 1/63, which would already be too much, as suggested by the gematria of haughtiness ( גס = 63). 

A pertinent anecdote:
As a single man, after having attended Chabad yeshiva after becoming observant, a Skolener Chassid hosted me at their house for a weekend in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

That Shabbos the host said to me, "I'll take you to a lecture given by one of the brightest rabbis in the community." I was delighted. He escorted me to a shul, then continued on his way. I walked in and the place was packed. I stood in the back.

After listening some 15 minutes I found myself fidgety. The rabbi speaker kept saying things like, "When I discovered this ...", "Yesterday when I told you ...", and "I think that ...".

I was glad to be standing at the back of the shul because I quickly made my way out the door.

When my host discovered my premature exit, he asked "Why?". I told him "I could not tolerate all his 'I this' and 'I that'". He laughed and said, "Now you've learned a key feature of Chassidus!"

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