Halacha for Monday 22 Iyar 5778 May 7 2018

“Be Exceedingly Humble”

The Rambam (Chapter 2 of Hilchot De’ot, Halacha 3) writes that there are some character traits regarding which one may not follow the “middle path”; rather, one must distance one’s self from one extreme to the other. This refers to the character trait of arrogance regarding which it is not sufficient for one to be merely “humble”; rather, one must be exceedingly humble with an extremely low spirit. It is for this reason that the Torah states regarding Moshe Rabbeinu, “And the man Moshe was very humble, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth,” as opposed to saying that he was merely “humble”. Thus, our Sages taught us that “one be exceedingly (very, very) humble.” Similarly, the Gemara (Sotah 5a) states that whoever is even slightly arrogant shall be excommunicated.

This means that arrogance is different than any other bad character traits or tendencies in that regarding all other bad character traits, there is room for one to follow the “middle path”. However, regarding arrogance, there is a Mitzvah for one to distance one’s self from this negative trait as much as possible, for Hashem hates arrogant individuals. Arrogance is also the bitter root which can cause one to plummet from the heights of all positive traits to the abysmal depths of all sorts of bad and corrupt character traits.

Regarding the above verse in the Torah, “And the man Moshe was very humble, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth,” Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l poses the following question (Ma’or Yisrael, Derushim, page 322): How could the Mishnah teach us that one must be “very, very humble” when even with regards to Moshe Rabbeinu, the humblest of all men, the Torah states only that he was “very humble”? How can the Tanna add that one must be “very, very humble”?

Maran zt”l questions this further by asking why the Torah needed to add the statement “above all the men that were upon the face of the earth”- clearly, if the Torah attests to the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu was very humble, this is relative to the other people on earth, not in Heaven?!

Rather, he explains that when the verse states, “Above all the men that were upon the face of the earth,” this refers to the unique type of person that is “upon the face of the earth,” i.e. whose body and face are constantly bent towards the earth, enters and exits the Bet Midrash hunched over, and does not become haughty in his heart; in short, a person who fulfills the edict of “be very, very humble.” The uniqueness of Moshe Rabbeinu was that he was “very” humble beyond the level of one who is “very, very humble,” meaning that Moshe Rabbeinu’s humility reached the third degree of very and his humility was above and beyond anyone else’s.

On the other hand, regarding one who does not lower himself and is haughty in his heart, the Gemara (Sotah 5a) likens such an individual to the verse “And they shall wither like the tops of stalks” which the Gemara explains to mean that just as when one enters one’s field, one begins by harvesting the tallest of the stalks, so too, Hashem takes the souls of the arrogant first. Thus, arrogance causes one’s life to be shortened.

Moreover, Rabbi Elazar taught that anyone who is haughty shall not arise during the Resurrection of the Dead, for the verse states that Hashem tells the dead, “Awaken and rejoice dwellers of the dust” as opposed to “those who lay in the dust”; this alludes to those who dwelled close to the dust during their lifetimes and only they shall arise during the Resurrection of the Dead. However, those who are constantly arrogant and haughty shall not merit arising during the Resurrection of the Dead.

The Gemara likewise states that if an arrogant individual later changes and humbles himself, Hashem will then change his lifespan and lengthen his life for this person to die at the appropriate time. He will likewise merit arising during the Resurrection of the Dead like our holy forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.

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