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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Nahar U'Pashtei Parshas Vayishlach

Yes You Can

People sometimes think that the middah of anavah requires that a person ignore his own potential and his accomplishments, and constantly put himself down, belittling his value in his own mind. A person must not be a baal gaavah, and often it is posited that the way to do so is to subconsciously nullify any victory he has in the ever-present battle he is fighting. It is interesting that the Gemara in Sotah tells us that a Talmid Chacham should possess an eighth of an eighth of the trait of haughtiness. Now, if this is to be taken at face value, the instruction remains unclear! How are we to measure this eighth of an eighth; what is full gaavah that we can use this to measure the given fraction with? Furthermore, why not simply tell us that we must have one sixty-fourth of gaavah? Rather, I would like to present the novel explanation cited in the name of the Gr”a. With the expression an eighth of an eighth the Gemara means to reference the eighth pasuk in the eighth parshah of the Torah; which happens to appear in our sidrah. Yaakov Avinu begged Hashem to save him from Eisav, saying, I have become unworthy of all the kindness and of all the truth which You have done with Your servant. The Sages are in fact teaching us that we should be so devoid of gaavah that we feel as Yaakov Aveinu did when he suspected that he was no longer deserving of Hashem’s kindness. If this pasuk teaches us how we are in fact meant to act, with no haughtiness at all, it stands to reason that we can learn from here the definition of true anavah! Did Yaakov express how terrible he was, or how his many accomplishments amounted to nothing? Did he say that he was unworthy to be saved because of his inability to fulfill Hashem’s will? Certainly not! His sole concern was that perhaps he had sinned and deserved to be punished through Esav! He did not, however, express the tiniest doubt in his abilities. This is true humility. One should never restrict himself with feelings of inability and worthlessness. These feelings only cultivate despair and prevent a person from reaching his true potential. True humility is to realize full well who you are and what you can become, yet never attribute your successes to your own strengths. A true anav will always look to improve, and will always feel humble, because perhaps he has not completed the will of Hashem to the fullest; but he will never underestimate his potential. This is a lesson that we can all relate to. Many times, a person will not do something or push himself further; thinking, “Who am I to do such a thing?” This is mistakenly characterized as humility, but is in fact actually merely an excuse. We must not hide from our purpose! We must not shy away from Hashem’s goals for us. A person must realize his full arsenal of strengths and utilize them wherever possible. Many good opportunities are unfortunately passed up because people think they are being humble. We must learn from Yaakov, that humble never means “This is beyond me”. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss


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