Humility is a powerful concept. It does not deny our personal powers and traits, it celebrates them. We recognize that we have the ability to do great and wonderful things… We have confidence. However, and this is a big one, we firmly recognize that those gifts have been given to us from someone else…a higher power. THAT is humility.
For those who have it, they will always realize that they are serving that higher power and must use those gifts for that purpose. Humility allows one to be somewhat selfless, to give to a higher cause.
Moses is the classic example of humility. He was “chosen” by Hashem to lead the Jewish people, yet could not understand why. He knew he had certain leadership skills, but had other traits that flew in the face of that. He was a… reluctant leader.
But that relationship works two ways. It has to. One has to be chosen, yes… But in order for the relationship to work, the “chosen one” has to “choose” back. Just as Moses accepted G-d’s command, the Jews chose to accept the Torah.
This is an extremely important thing to remember.
As we discussed at the Shavuot learning with Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld… And let me just say that there is something so incredible and magical about learning at midnight, outside, under the fog covered stars… Jews get VERY uncomfortable with being pegged as the Chosen ones… being made to feel that they are better than everyone else. But why?
I liken it to a celebrity who is put in the spotlight for a certain skill… acting, singing, throwing a ball better than anyone else. Because they are so visible and have so much air time, and are put on a pedestal, they also have an obligation to lead by example… to set a course of behavior… to be a role model. Is this fair? Just because they can play the guitar well, does it really mean they have to behave above board. That’s not what they signed up for. I guess it depends on the person, and while we do not like people using fame to present ideas they know nothing about, people do listen to those chosen… Or perhaps more importantly, they model their behavior. Actions always speak louder than words. A notion writers might contest.
But freedom (and fortune and fame) without that higher purpose is empty…hollow. They were chosen for a reason, so the question is… Do they choose back?
We live in a world where people are bullied and shamed on the internet. And while bullying has been around for years… I was bullied as a child… It is far too easy and all encompassing these days. People dread the way they look and bullies seize on this and make them feel so little.
But what about those who have amazing qualities… Do great things… Accomplish so much… And yet still seem to hate themselves. The term “self-hating” is a fascinating one, and I know the notion of the “self-hating Jew” is a term Shlomo does not like. But let us explore it, as I think there are many Jews who behave in this way… Who make excuses for being Jewish…apologize for it… And even mock themselves in horrible and derogatory ways, use epithets and stereotypes against themselves, just to fit in and be a part of the larger crowd.
This is certainly not humility… this is embarrassment, shame… Hate. People who are born rich sometimes sabotage themselves out of guilt. They gamble or become addicts because they did not truly value their position or what they were given. They did not choose back.
Yes, G-d chose the Jewish people, but WE CHOSE BACK. And as we learned, it is NOT easy being a Jew.
Shlomo loves the great line from Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof: “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”
Being a Jew is not easy, but neither is life. I once had someone very successful tell me that he and I had the same, exact problems… he just had bigger numbers. Well, of course, I looked at him and said, “I’ll take the bigger numbers.”
Being chosen does NOT mean being better than anyone else. It means simply having more obligations, more commandments, more mitzvahs and more opportunities to take advantage of and not squander.
Any Non-Jew can follow the Seven Noahide Laws and enjoy the fruits of the World To Come. And just as Jews can choose to leave, non-Jews can choose to convert… to join the faith.
- Do not deny God.
- Do not blaspheme God.
- Do not murder.
- Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
- Do not steal.
- Do not eat from a live animal.
- Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to said laws.
Life is about choices… and having freedom means that we get to choose. And THAT is what it means to be the CHOSEN people… It’s not that we are better than everyone else… it’s that WE CHOSE BACK!