Pride and Humility
On Shabat Shuvah we are supposed to think about personal growth and change. It is right before Yom Kippur when we tell G-d and ourselves that we will change.
Living life as a Jew we do not need to blindly accept any thing which society thorws at us. If society is sick we do not need to be infected.
Society teaches us to be proud of everything and anything. What kind of car we drive, where we go on our vacation, and how decadent we have been.
The Humble are looked down upon. Those who publicly admit that they are not perfect are looked at as if they are strange. A proud person does not pay attention to the fact that he does not know everything.
This is especially pertinant to the Ten Days of Teshuvah.
This is the season when many people try to start the process of personal change which we call Teshuvah. Through Teshuvah we try to improve ourselves and to stop making previos mistakes.
There is one condition which you need in order to change. This condition is humility.
If a person has to much pride in his heart he can never recognize that he has done something wrong. If you believe that you are perfect you will never change. If you believe that you are perfect you prabably have a lot of other problems in your life.
If you really recognize that you are not perfect then you might have the abilty to improve yourself. I believe that everyone knows what pride is so let us now discuss what humility is and how to develop it.
The most important aspect of humility is realizing that you are far from the most important creation in the world. An outgrowth of that thought should be that every other person is at least equal to you. Another aspect of humility is realizing that G-d is all powerful and that you are powerless.
Hopefully, if you act in a humble way it will reach down and make you humble. A very good way to act humble is to say nice things about everything even if they are not worthy. The book Chovot Halevavoth-Duties of the Hearts cites a story on this topic:
A Pious man was once walking with his students. They past the carcass of a dog. One student comented, “How strong is the stench of that carcass.” The pious man responded by saying, “How white are its teeth.”
The pious man believed that it is not proper to speak bad about a dead dog. How much more so is it improper to speak ill of a human being. You should realize that every human being has at least something good about him. I have seen many people do the opposite. When they have a access to a good person they complain about his faults instead of making use of his abilities.
The pious man actually praised the smelly dead dog by saying that its teeth are white. Even if a person is real slime you should have patience in dealing with him and praise him.
I am sure that many of you are saying, “why should I praise a low life who might be a thief or worse?” This question was addressed by Rabbi Yaacov Peretz in our yeshiva in Jerusalem. He said that even if the Arabs are slimy you should not go around curseing them. The reason for this is so that you do not get used to using foul language.
The English language has very many foul words if you get used to curseing certain people you will be so used to it that you will use that same words in refering to good people.
The same is true if you get used to praising people who do not deserve it you will easily praise those who deseve it.
I have mentioned only one of ten discussion of the actions of a humble person which are discussed in Chovot Halevavot. There are about another 30 topics on the subject of humility discussed in this book. One of the subjects we will be disccussing in my nightly classes will be Chovot Halevavot. You will be receiveing schedules.