MidrESHET Hayil

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parashat Toldot, The One Rule You Need to Know to Attain Humility

Please learn the following for the ilui Neshama of Iran bat Socrola 

Parashat Toldot

The One Rule You Need to Know to Attain Humility

18. And Isaac again dug the wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father, Abraham, and the Philistines had stopped them up after Abraham's death; and he gave them names like the names that his father had given them.

יח. וַיָּשָׁב יִצְחָק וַיַּחְפֹּר אֶת בְּאֵרֹת הַמַּיִם אֲשֶׁר חָפְרוּ בִּימֵי אַבְרָהָם אָבִיו וַיְסַתְּמוּם פְּלִשְׁתִּים אַחֲרֵי מוֹת אַבְרָהָם וַיִּקְרָא לָהֶן שֵׁמוֹת כַּשֵּׁמֹת אֲשֶׁר קָרָא לָהֶן אָבִיו:

If there is one middah (character trait) that counters the development of a Jewish neshama and can practically shatter all human potential, it is the middah of arrogance. If you think about it, anger, envy and lust are all derivatives that stem from the single root of arrogance. To cleanse ourselves of these qualities of anger, envy, and lust (which are all capable of literally destroying lives), all we have to do is uproot the quality of arrogance from our psyche and we are left with true humility. And so explains the Ramban. To attain true Yiraat Shamayim, HaRamban writes in his Iggeret HaRamban that the precursor to attaining Awe of HaShem Yitbarakh is humility. And how do we reach this level? He writes:
‘Speak gently at all times, with your head bowed, your eyes looking down to the ground and your heart focusing on Hashem. Don't look at the face of the person to whom you are speaking. Consider everyone as greater than yourself. …In all your actions, words and thoughts, always regard yourself as standing before Hashem, with His Shekhinah above you, for His glory fills the whole world. Speak with fear and awe, as a slave standing before his master. Act with restraint in front of everyone. When someone calls you, don't answer loudly, but gently and softly, as one who stands before his master.’
As Yisshak Avinu proceeded along his trajectory through Eres Yisrael, he began to amass substantial wealth, and evidently, a renowned name for himself. Despite fame and fortune being a premise to invoke a man’s inner conceit, we can see no trace of arrogance on Yisshak Avinu’s part. Before Yisshak Avinu traveled around this land, he realized that somebody else had already done it before him; His father, Avraham Avinu. Avraham Avinu had the custom of digging wells of water along the routes he would take during his journeys. In Parashat Toldot, Yisshak Avinu re-digs some of the wells that his father had initially dug. Time and time again, Yisshak was envied of his wealth and viewed as a threat to the Kena’anim (Philistines) so they took his wells and asked him to leave. Each time Yisshak Avinu re-digs a well, he does not change its name; he calls it by the same name that his father had called it.

            Yisshak Avinu realized that there was an authority higher than him and he did not try to change it; he accepts it. This is the key to achieving true humility, to accept. We must realize that we are not in control of the things that happen to us and a higher authority takes care of things for us. We must learn to let go. If we are able to smash our egos and realize that we cannot always have it our way, that sometimes, what others tell us is the ideal path and for once maybe they are right, we learn the essence of humility. Again, here we accept what others tell us.

On an intrapersonal level, if we can let go of our expectations and work with what we have, with the reality that we face, not only do we become successful in our endeavors, we also achieve utmost humility. It is no longer about ‘me’; it is about what needs to be done, about the task at hand, about the greater good. We accept what we are presented with and we get over ourselves.

In life we are given wells. Some are dried up and some flow with luscious water. The structure and foundation of the well is already set. But we do not control how much water flows beneath the wells infrastructure. We make do with the water that rises. As much as you worry and stand over the well and plow and hire the best workers and try to set everything up perfectly so that a system is set up where nothing can go wrong, this will never determine whether or not water will rise up from the ground. It all depends on the authority above us; it depends on HaKadosh Barukh Hu.

We must understand that we can never design a ‘fool-proof life’. He who does is the fool himself. This is comparable to students who spend more time and effort to create a ‘cheat-sheet’ for a test instead of sitting and actually studying for it. In generating a cheat-sheet, we are essentially saying ‘I have authority enough to guarantee my success on this exam.’ But we don’t. Who are we to be our own guarantors? Nothing in life is guaranteed, so do not waste your time constructing a scheme elaborate enough to withstand the tests you think you will be facing. If it is meant to fall through, it will fall through regardless of your plot and proposals. The more we set up a specific expectation for how something will happen, the more likelihood that we will let ourselves down. Your expectations and plans are trapped within the sphere of your skull. How is the world supposed to relate to this? Only you know what is going on in your heart and your head, this by no means can relay to the world how it should be run. So when things do not go as we envision them (Why should they? We are but one tiny speck in the grand scheme of things), we become discouraged and frustrated. This is all for naught. The only thing you can do is to accept the world and to make the change inside yourself, a change directed towards humility.

Just like Yisshak Avinu did not change the name of the wells, we should not try to change the lot we are given in life. In both cases we accept what has been handed to us. It is not about the cards we are dealt in life; it is how we play them. It was never about the name of the well; it is about the lucid waters that flow beneath. In the case of Yisshak Avinu, he realized that somebody of a higher stature has been there before him who knows better and to this authority did he defer. Likewise, we must realize that no matter where we find ourselves, somebody has already been there before. That somebody is HaKadosh Barukh Hu. To Him we must defer.
May we all achieve the humility necessary to internalize these concepts and by doing so, reinvigorate all those wells we have let dry, bringing forth an abundance of berakha similar to those bestowed upon Avraham, Yisshak and Yaakov Avinu.

Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!

            Ariella Samimi

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