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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

When I didn't so 'humbly disagree'

By Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb




The difference between "meek" and "humble"


I don't usually disagree publicly with lecturers, particularly when they are expressing opinions which are mostly consistent with my own. But there was one time when I felt that I had to speak up and object to one of the speaker's expressions.

It was at a lecture on the subject of self-absorption. The speaker characterized the time we live in as "the age of narcissism." He argued that we live in an era when most people are totally self-centered and guilty of false pride and arrogance. He advanced many examples to bolster his position.

Although I found his hypothesis to be somewhat extreme, I could agree with much of what he was saying. I, too, have often felt that the phrase "the Me Generation" was an apt appellation for contemporary society.

But then the gentleman at the podium made a statement that touched a raw nerve in me. He said something that I had heard expressed many times over the years and have invariably felt compelled to correct.

He said that, as a good Christian, he found the hubris which predominated contemporary society to be quite contrary to "the Christian values of forgiveness and humility." It was his description of these noble values as being of Christian origin, and the way in which he conveyed his conviction that his own faith tradition somehow "owned" them, that brought me to my feet.

"I must object," I asserted, "not to your major thesis about the faults of our generation, but to your insistence on identifying what you believe to be the desirable qualities for the human race with Christianity, and with Christianity alone."

I must confess that I was secretly hoping that my protest would cause him to at least modify his remarks, and perhaps speak, as so many do, of the "Judeo-Christian values of forgiveness and humility."

But that was not to be. Instead, he cited chapter and verse in the Christian Bible on the importance of forgiveness, and then, raising his voice for emphasis, said: "Surely, the learned Rabbi knows that it is in the Book of Matthew that we find the phrase, 'And the meek shall inherit the earth.' "

I will not report what I said to him about forgiveness as a Jewish virtue. I will save those remarks for another occasion. But, because of the connection to this week's Torah portion, Beha'alosecha (Numbers 8:1-12:16), I will share with you the essence of my retort with regard to the Jewish origin of the all-important virtue of humility.

"Yes, my dear sir," I replied, "this learned Rabbi does indeed know that the phrase that you translate as, 'And the meek shall inherit the earth,' appears in your Scriptures. But I also know that the identical phrase appears in the Book of Psalms chapter 37, verse 11, written many centuries before Matthew. And I also know that translating the Hebrew word anavim as 'the meek' is not quite correct. We preferred to translate anavim as 'the humble,' and not as 'the meek'".


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I continued to build my argument by quoting the verse near the end of this week's Torah portion, "Now Moses was a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth." (Numbers 12:3) "There is no way," I insisted, "that the Torah would use the word anav to describe Moses if the word meant 'meek.' Moses was not meek. I think you will agree that the image evoked by the phrase 'a meek person' is that of a weak person, or at least a mild-mannered one. Moses was most certainly neither weak nor mild-mannered. He was strong, in body and in spirit, and could be quite assertive when circumstances called for assertiveness."

While I do not delude myself into thinking that I changed my adversary's mind, I did get the audience thinking. This was proven when about a dozen of those present gathered around me after the lecture was concluded and asked me to expand upon the Jewish definition of humility.

I told them that a comprehensive discussion of the importance which Judaism assigns to the character trait of anava, or humility, would take a very long time. I agreed, however, to share with them but one thought upon the subject.

I quoted to them the following passage in the Talmud (Nedarim 38a):

"Rabbi Yochanan said: 'The Holy One Blessed Be He allows the Shechinah [the Divine Presence] to rest only upon someone who is strong, wealthy, wise, and humble. All of these traits were to be found in Moses. Humility, as it is written, 'Now Moses was a very humble man. . . ' "

It was not long before one member of the group asked the question that I was expecting. "Does the Almighty really favor people with the mundane virtues of strength and wealth? I would think that He would rather favor spiritual virtues."

"Your question," I responded, "was anticipated by a rabbi who wrote in the early 20th century. His name was Rabbi Baruch Epstein, and whereas his magnum opus, Torah Temimah, was written in 1904, he lived to an advanced old age and witnessed the Holocaust. His answer is a most instructive one."

I then went on to describe that answer. I told the group that the test of humility can only be passed by one who is strong and wealthy and wise. If someone who lacks those resources acts humbly, we cannot be sure that he in truth possesses a humble character. It could be that he acts humbly simply because he is weak, or poor, or of limited intelligence. God, therefore, chooses to have the Shechinah dwell with the person who, despite his many assets and talents, remains humble. He is the one who is genuinely an anav.

Thus, writes Rabbi Epstein, "It is precisely because Moses was powerful and wealthy and wise and tall, and yet humble, that we can speak of him as the 'humblest of men.' "

There is much wisdom in this manner of understanding the virtue of humility, of anava. The anav is not a meek person. Quite the contrary. He has many talents and many skills. He is fully aware of his capacities and of his strengths. And yet he recognizes that these gifts are just that, gifts. Moreover, these gifts are Divine blessings, and he has no right to be proud of them as if they were his personal achievements.

The humble man recognizes that his very advantage over others is a gift of G0D. That is what allows him to utilize his powers to help achieve His purposes, not out of meekness, but out of humility.

Once again, Moses is a model for all of us. We are called upon to be humble, but that doesn't mean that we are to be weak, passive, or submissive. We can be strong, active, and assertive—and humble.


Previously:



The Inspired Loner
Words of Fire
Redemption
When the utopian idealist met the hardnosed realist in the park
Worrying about idolatry
What Moses knew about motivation
Commuting and Commenting: Conversations of a Life in Motion
Unanswered prayers force unlearning lessons
Dogs, too, have pedigrees
Count Me In
Open Eyes, and an Open Heart

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Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, PhD is currently the Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union.


© 2012, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb

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