Tuesday, June 26, 2007
On Monday, June 25, in the Noahide class Alexey, Brigitte, Peter, and Michael attended, and we welcomed back Adam (Okeinko).
We discussed the concept of humility on many levels:
1. Not showing off one's talents and virtues to others, and even making an effort to hide these talents, unless circumstances necessitate revealing these qualities.
2. Feeling humble despite one's talents, out of an awareness of one's shortcomings.
3. Feeling humble out of awareness that one's talents are only a gift from Above, like an inheritance; it is thus illogical to pride oneself on them.
4. Just as it is necessary to know one's faults so they can be corrected, so should one know one's good qualities, so one can use them to the maximum to benefit society and thus realise the purpose for which these talents were granted to the person. The thought that one has wasted or even not maximised one's talents can evoke a feeling of humility.
4. Feeling humble out of awareness that if another person had been granted my talents and upbringing, he might well have exerted more effort than I, and accomplished much more.
5. Feeling that one is no different from a lowly criminal by thinking, "For him to overcome his temptations and pull himself out of his immoral lifestyle, he would need to exert tremendous effort. If I am not exerting the same amount of effort to do what the Creator demands of me--good deeds--then in a sense, I am no better than him!"
6. Feeling even lower than a lowly criminal by thinking, "His unworthy natural character traits and poor upbringing mean that he has little appreciation of the need to live decently. Hence it is more understandable that he fails to exert the tremendous effort necessary to pull himself out of his degenerate lifestyle. I, on the other hand, know very well the value of good deeds. Thus, if I fail to exert myself with tremendous effort to perform good deeds, I am even worse than him!
Chassidic philosophy, however, elevates the concept of humility into another league altogether. This is related to the concept of divine unity, which is expressed in the verse, "Hear O Israel, G-d is our L-rd, G-d is One." (Deut., 6:4) This is commonly understood to indicate that there is no deity other than Hashem (G-d). However, according to the emphasis of the Ba'al Shem Tov, founder of Chassidic philosophy, not only is Hashem the only deity, He is also the only true Existence in the universe, the only true reality. This is the implication of the verse, "There is nothing else (other than Him)." (ibid., 4:35)
Thus, our perception of ourselves and the world around us as forces independent of G-d is in fact incorrect. The awareness that our very sense of existence is a contradiction to the true divine reality can bring us to a sense of humility on a level far deeper than any of the levels described above, for they all relate only to preventing arrogance from one's talents, and take for granted the person's basic sense of his existence.